Gaming without your brother

Category Archives: Tabletop Gaming

Remember when I talked about a game-a-thon for charity awhile ago? It was a terrible, meandering post about just losing meaning in my life a little bit (maybe the post wasn’t so much about that, but in hindsight that’s the attitude it was written in). This is about that.

I recently tried to get more involved in the Rooster Teeth community. It has . . . been going okay, still haven’t worked up the courage to game with anyone on the site even though I joined a couple of groups for that specifically. Slowly but surely! The best connection thus far has been a Salt Lake City group. One proactive site user in the Salt Lake area has started a team for Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, as a part of Extra Life, and I joined!

The link above explains the details of Extra Life, if you haven’t heard of it before. My donation page is here.

Why donate? Why am I doing this?

A) I feel really strongly that all charities should give 100% of their proceeds to who they’re trying to benefit. Check, Extra Life does that.

B) The Children’s Miracle Network of Hospitals uses all of its money to let patients stay at their facilities cost free. On the list of noble causes, that’s pretty high up there. They deserve some help for that, doncha think?

C) I get to play video games for 24 hours in a really cool locale, Gamerz Funk.

I understand that part of the challenge of getting donations is that it’s for a very specific, local hospital. The factor that I think could transcend geography is that it’s helping kids, right? You might not know a kid in Salt Lake City, but they exist right? Kids that need help. So if you have a couple bucks and want to encourage me to last the full 24 hours, consider clicking the link above and donating towards my modest $200 goal. The SLC team I’m a part of has a $5,000 goal that my $200 will contribute towards.

Thanks, you know I love you all despite my absence in the blog-o-sphere,

Laurie

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Originally published on 1/23/13

I realized tonight, after my weekly D&D session (yes, I am that awesome) that my opinion post yesterday missed some vital points. Someone pointed out that guilds are wonderful communities and when you get in a good one, you’re in it to stay and people are family. I hope my opinion didn’t offend any guild members. Although, if it did, I’d encourage you to comment and rebut my statements, heh.

The other particularly huge exception was tabletop gaming! How could I have left out this entirely vast and wonderful world of gaming! Again, I was thinking about gaming with others tonight in particular because I got together with five good friends like I do every week and we raided a dungeon and some of us collected the teeth of our enemies, and some of us pet werebears, and some of us got poofy, supernatural hair, and some of us tried to knock a swarm of bugs prone. We’re a varied, and ridiculous bunch, all the more when we get together to comb dungeons and slay dragons. It’s a wonderful, wonderful few hours of my week, and I thoroughly enjoy getting to be a part of it.

Aside from what many would deem nerd tabletop games, I also love board games (which many would still deem nerd games). I love watching the YouTube show “Tabletop” by Geek & Sundry that showcases awesome games I might’ve heard of before, but have never tried or seen, or games I’ve never heard of, and get to see and be intrigued by. Since embracing the expansive world of board games past Monopoly and Risk, I’ve played Munchkin, Fantastique, Small World, Shadows Over Camelot, Sentinels of the Multiverse, a ton more that I’m forgetting, and I have a game gifted to me called Race for the Galaxy that I need to bust out and play finally.

The point is that my post last week was a little hasty. Sure, there are things I really despise about playing with others. But there are things I also love, and wouldn’t give up for anything. I guess like all worthwhile things in life, you take some bad with the good, but it all averages out to awesome in the end.

*cue moral-of-the-story sitcom music


Originally published on 1/16/13

So I’ve discussed this a few times with people, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Gaming with others, either physically or digitally: helpful or distracting?

I s’pose I should clarify the term “helpful.” I mean, do you feel like you’re deeper in a game when you know there are others roaming the countryside around you, or are you constantly thinking about their experience as well as your own?

After multiple conversations about this, I feel like I am in the minority. I must say that MMOs are not my jam, because when I see real live people running around all over my screen, I think about them as people, on the other side of a monitor or console, judging me or living their own lives. I don’t think about their character(s) in relation to my character; I think of them in relation to me. And it takes me so far out of the game, I just don’t want to play. Obviously this is a weird function of some self-esteem problems, if I’m assuming strangers in Guild Wars 2 are judging my Charr as I run by, but hey. It is what it is. Maybe I’ll sort it out one day.

As for me, I love the single player experience. I let myself completely become who I’m playing and suddenly realize I’ve been playing for five hours. The world, with all of it’s imperfections and impracticality, becomes totally real. If someone is there with me? I feel about the same as I do when I play MMOs. Certainly they must be scrutinizing my skill, my technique, and my know-how. Certainly they must be deciding to never play with me again, or that my gamer street cred is an inflated joke.

There are a few exceptions to this, but they’re few and far between. Hopefully I’ll get to a point where I can move past this, but as it stands for right now, I thoroughly enjoy playing by myself and try to avoid all multiplayer situations.

What about you guys? Do you prefer single player or multiplayer, particularly from the viewpoint of immersion in a video game? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Originally published on 11/17/12

“Hey Laurie, you have been dead on the site. That’s really weird. What is your deal?”

“Great question! Thanks for judging me without knowing me, JERK.”

Just kidding. None of you are jerks. I’ve had zero troll comments thus far on the site (that I know of. Plenty of spam, but no trolls). That means you all rock. But the observation is valid: I have been super absent from the blog. Here’s the skinny:

I got a new job! And I was offered another one at the same time! And I was still working my other job during the whole process! So it was a lot of time! Exclamation points! And herein lies the story I’d like to share with you, about gaming, related to that information.

At my now old job (last day was today), I worked with my D&D Dungeon Master and my boss was also into D&D. A bunch of the tech guys there were in a D&D campaign that had been running for . . . years. Probably not the same campaign, but they all played D&D together for ages. Another co-worker and I bonded over the Assassin’s Creed series, and one other co-worker and I chatted about writing and video games a lot (check him out at The Married Gamer). One breakroom had a Wii, and another had an Xbox and a PC with an emulator (never played, not sure which console[s] were emulated). The point is: it was easy to be a gamer where I last worked. Those who didn’t play video games thought they were cool.

So I started applying to get a new job and my first interview with first interested place asked me where I saw myself in five years. I see the value in the question, even though it’s kind of the dreaded question of most interview processes. “What if I say ‘not the hell here’ and that totally disqualifies me for the job?” I erred on the side of being naively (lovably?) honest and said that in five years my dream job would either be working for a video game company or working for a video game journalism company. Thankfully a number of programmers were interviewing me so they all found that to be an acceptable answer (note: my unfair stereotype is that programmers play video games. These ones happened to, not all do, I get it). I mentioned some of my gaming writing on the side and they seemed to approve. No lost points, that I could tell.

Then I started interviewing with a second company, and again got the same question. I again erred on the side of being lovably (stupidly?) honest and gave the same answer. The culture of this company was different though. It was hip, it made a lot of jokes in its ads and marketing, it was cool. Would I be disqualified not because I wanted to get out but because I was too nerdy? As I started to give my response, I hedged with, “. . . and I know there are a lot of stigmas surrounding the admission that I really like video games . . . but” and I launched into how I would love to be writing for or about games in the near future.

The woman interviewing me laughed off my qualifier and said that tons of people at the company liked games. She went on to ask me what my favorite game was. I thought it was just a polite, try-to-make-conversation question, so I quickly said that I thought Red Dead Redemption is a damn near perfect game. She asked why, and I thought that was kind of deep for a just-being-polite question, but I launched into an explanation of the setting, the characters, the storyline, the design, and the music, and how all of those elements culminated into a completely immersive and compelling experience overall. And then she started to explain how those principles would apply to trying to write fun and compelling technical documentation that is easy-to-read, not a chore, like a video game. A) Best interviewer I’ve ever spoken with B) good company policy, to try to make writing fun and accessible and C) I wasn’t a leper for being really into gaming!

Aside from those take-aways, which led me to take the job with the second company, I was also kind of . . . impressed? That seems too pompous . . . I dunno, I guess I have just been contemplating a lot how I handled the situation. Sure, I was nervous. Sure, I didn’t want to come off as the stereotypical gamer, obsessed with her hobby and unaware of social norms or queues. But at the same time, I didn’t abandon it. I used it, I declared it to be apart of my life and personality, and it didn’t blow up in my face. I think that doesn’t happen everywhere, but I’m pretty pleased that was my experience with this company, and pleased to realize when the chips are down, I don’t abandon an industry and pastime I love. I owned being a gamer, and it was awesome.

Comment! Let me know what’s up! I wanna talk to you guys because like we established in the beginning, you are awesome, not jerks.


Update: Hi to all the new readers! If I’ve convinced you stick around, consider liking the Little Sister Gaming Facebook page or following me at @littlesisgaming on Twitter to keep up on new posts. Thanks for visiting!

I don’t think I should talk about Chris Kohler from Wired any more (Chris Kohler), but while I was waiting to talk to Chris Kohler, another aspiring games journalist/writer/designer like myself, named Ted, came up to me and took the panelists’ advice to network to heart much more directly than I did (and he is awesome for doing so). As we discussed our backgrounds (both English majors, from Washington, etc.), his friend came up and Ted introduced me to Arian, a newly-minted tabletop game designer and indie developer himself. Even though Arian and his game Pocket-Tactics had just gotten picked up by Wired for investing in a 3D printer and taking care of all the manufacturing of the game himself, with the rest of his team at Ill Gotten Games (one of the best company names I’ve heard in awhile, I must say), he graciously agreed to meet up with me the next day, let me play through his game, and review it. I’m telling you, the nicest people go to PAX.

On a Tuesday night some months ago, Arian had an idea for a dice-oriented tabletop game, inspired by the game play of Final Fantasy Tactics and its strategy game predecessors. By the end of the night, the idea was finalized and by Friday of that week, the first copy of the game was printed, painted, and fully playable. Not too shabby, by any standard. Its first iteration features two factions, the Legion of the High King and the Tribe of the Dark Forest. Each faction has strengths and weaknesses, so picking a side is a part of the strategy, not an arbitrary color or figurine preference. Arian said that there are more factions in the works to be released so players can have a wider variety to choose from. There are six classes per faction, ranging from strong melee characters to necromancers to archers. Each faction also has an accompany stats sheet so you can see each class’s defense and attack points for melee, ranged, and magic attacks. The stats sheets also show terrain advantages and abilities for each class.

Picture from illgottengames.blogspot.com

Picture from illgottengames.blogspot.com

The most exciting part of the game to me was the map. Players take turn picking one hexagonal piece out of a small bag at a time and placing it around one player’s base. There are some placement rules that force players to build at least slightly outward. Each piece is painted and designed slightly differently to differentiate terrain types. Different factions will have benefits depending if they’re on a forest tile, a hill tile, etc. A different game play experience every time for a map-based tabletop game is a cool innovation, and I can only imagine how experienced players can use it to their advantage, or their opponent’s disadvantage. As a super noob, I didn’t really implement it myself, and I think Arian was too nice to just wipe the floor with me with that particular strategy.

Each player only starts out with three figures on the board, which they get to choose, and more pieces can be added on subsequent turns but only to specific tiles near each players’ home base. The object of the game is to defeat the other player’s base, which in turn usually requires you to destroy all of their individual fighters. The base itself has 3 defense points, which means every attack against the base, the defending player can roll three blue dice. The attacking player uses 1 to 3 red dice (depending on how many attack points for that specific action that player’s figure has) and whichever player has a net total of higher dice either successfully defends or is defeated off the board entirely. The same process applies to attacking other figures as well (which have 1 to 3 defense points and can use 1 to 3 blue dice), not just bases. Each turn, a player can only move, spawn, or attack with one figure.

There are more intricacies than that; I’m doing the game an injustice, just as I did the day I reviewed it when I had to do a rushed play through to get into a panel that was starting. The strengths of the game lie in the fact that I found it to be a pretty simple implementation of an advanced strategy. Figures get defense bonuses depending terrain and if allies are nearby, move bonuses for nearby allies, and disadvantages for standing on water map tiles. And yet in the quick thirty minutes I had with Arian to review this, I remembered all of that and I thought I was doing all right strategically during the short time we played.

Picture from illgottengames.blogspot.com

Picture from illgottengames.blogspot.com

And maybe that’s the biggest point – Arian would probably be too nice to tell you if I was really blowing it anyway. I’m not trying to say that people should lie in favor of my skills (but it’s nice when they do) but I’m saying it’s really awesome to see good people like the team at Ill Gotten Games getting some coverage from Wired and some success for following their passions. I love small companies and small projects to get big time coverage and success, so I’m happy to spread the word about a game that I will definitely buy, Pocket-Tactics.

That opportunity to buy the game will be coming sooner than we think, Arian said that in the very near future a Kickstarter campaign is launching to raise funds to print Pocket-Tactics on a massive scale. I’ll be sure to post when that goes live so you can all get in on the fun earlier than the rest. And that might be the only downside to the game at the moment: while Ill Gotten Games may be printing the pieces, it remains to be seen who will be painting them, players or the manufacturers. It seems like it will depend on the success of the fundraiser; if it does well enough, we might be able to fund Arian painting board games pieces for fourteen hours a day until ship date, heh. Time, and the details of the campaign, will tell us.

Ill Gotten Games’ other project is an RPG game, similar to the style of GURPS, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to delve into that too much. I hope the group has more games slated to release in the near future, if they can keep churning out fun and simple yet strategic games like Pocket-Tactics.

For some reason, this seemed really funny to me at the time.

For some reason, this seemed really funny to me at the time.


PAX break – to accept a very nice nomination from the guys over at At the Buzzer for a Lovely Blog Award!

I really admire the guys (and gal) that run At the Buzzer. They have put together a quality blog with tons of content and great humor and insights into games and sports and whatever else they like talking about. They also graciously highlighted my blog a few months ago, and yeah . . . man, a nicer blog around you cannot find. I think they were also one of the first blogs to start following me. Basically, I owe my first born child to At the Buzzer. And recently they just hit their 40,000 hit mark which is incredible! And deserves a huge round of e-applause from us all.

There are some other rules to accepting this nomination, apparently (I’m new to the “professional” blog-o-sphere so I haven’t ever seen this before). I gave a shout out to At the Buzzer, now I have to share seven things about myself, and then I have to nominate fifteen other blogs and tell these fifteen other blogs that, via a comment.

  1. I love Ke$ha. This came to mind first because I was recently rebuked for such a travesty, but my second fact will explain the first.
  2. I’m a dance-a-holic! And no, I don’t mean that I actually know how to dance, but I just love hearing a good beat and flailing limbs around a dance floor. So, Ke$ha facilitates that in an incredible way, and I can’t hate people who bring me good dance jams. Thanks, K-dawg.
  3. When given a choice to eat a chicken sandwich or a hamburger, I will always choose a hamburger. Even when someone says “Oh, the chicken sandwich here is really good,” I think, “Yeah, but they also offer hamburgers so . . . why would I order anything else?” Since this is such a weird and useless “fact” about myself, I’ll include that I feel the same about chocolate versus fruit-flavored desserts. Oh, the cherry ice cream is really good? Cool, but I can get chocolate so . . . I’m definitely getting that no matter what.
  4. I only turn on the A/C in my car if I’m on the freeway or driving with someone who I can tell really wants me to turn on the A/C. In Seattle, that was never a big deal, but in Utah, it means I usually drive for five minutes and then my face is beat red and I’m sweating. I just think it’s wasteful, which I empirically know isn’t true, but still do it anyway.
  5. These are some ridiculous facts, because I can honestly not think of anything that I haven’t already shared in a blog post . . . I enjoy watching sporting events? Football, basketball, soccer, tennis, baseball, others. Live or on TV. Usually not my first choice but if I’m bored and it’s on, I’ll go for it.
  6. I did the macarena at PAX for a crappy deck of Magic cards because I want to start playing but am too cheap to buy the cards myself. I think I’ll break down and do it eventually, but hey, I got a free deck of cards.
  7. Speaking of cards, the first card game I really got into was Pokemon and I still wish I had kept those cards because that game was freaking awesome. I imagine I’ll have the same passion for Magic eventually.

Whew, that was much more difficult than I imagined it would be. Most “facts about myself” have to do with video games, I guess, and I’ve already shared most of them with you. Finally, nominations. I honestly don’t think I know fifteen bloggers . . . and actually if I do, they’ve already been nominated. So, this will be less than fifteen, but they are all quality, quality bloggers I enjoy reading.

  1. Link Dead Gaming (great podcasts and posts about all things gaming related, very thorough and enjoyable content)
  2. IPGR (professional, yet personable and thorough gaming reviews. I was really impressed the first time I read their stuff, it’s very high quality)
  3. StuckButton (a smorgasbord of pop culture posts from movies to games and more. Fun site to follow!)
  4. MicrowavedCoffee (great perspectives and musings about games and life, always interesting to read)
  5. CaptainAggro (a blog that’s just getting started, that shows a lot of promise in covering gaming news as well as gaming opinion)
  6. Tech Filled Fantasy (a great tech blog that I always enjoy posting on [and my comments are usually too long] that has great brain teasers about where tech is going in the future)
  7. What’s Your Tag? (more great, personal writing about gaming news! I’m kind of a one blog genre horse – lots of gaming, but all great writers!)
  8. Space Giraffe (gaming musings, covers a lot of game music which is awesome, musings in general, always entertaining)

Other bloggers I would’ve nominated had they not already been nominated include, Recollections of Play, NUReviews, and Vinny. Bottom line, I need to follow some more blogs! I’ll be perusing everyone else’s nominations list this week to find more great bloggers to follow. Thanks again to everyone that follows the blog, and another big thanks to everyone at At the Buzzer!


Noob Alert! I originally said I watched Team Digitas as one of the first teams to play in the LoL championship. That should read Team Dignitas. My mistake, and if you like LoL and haven’t given up on me yet, sorry for the typo.

1) On Thursday night we pulled into Seattle to meet up with my friends’ Minecraft server buddies for dinner. They turned out to be a twenty-five year old woman who was the community manager and a man in his late thirties with his nine year old son. All three were so incredibly nice and so passionate about Minecraft that even though I didn’t really know what was going on (I have still never played Minecraft, and I know that makes me a bad person), I was grinning like a kid as the table bantered about Minecraft then Magic then tabletop games. After the meal, the father invited us all to play Risk in the lobby of his hotel with other people. After wandering the convention center for awhile to just check everything out before the influx of people the next morning, we wandered into one of the hotel lobbies and I saw every table and chair occupied by fellow gamers playing all kinds of board games and card games. I started smiling like a kid and when I tried to explain it later to family and friends, I got choked up. People all together for the same purpose doing the same thing. Incredible.

It’s worth noting that while wandering around the convention center Thursday night, I saw a troupe of Mass Effect cosplayers who were perfect. In particular there was a guy dressed in the best geth suit I’ve ever seen. He proceeded to moonwalk in his suit as people were taking pictures of him and then I knew: my life was complete.

2) We got up early to get in line by eight for getting into the exhibition hall as soon as the doors opened at ten. After seeing some amazing cosplay that kept a smile on my face for two hours, the doors officially opened and I wandered the floor in a crowd of people, playing a few games (Hitman: Absolution, Sleeping Dogs) here and there, but mainly feeling a little overwhelmed, and not wanting to wait in line for any demos. Eventually I wound up on the sixth floor and watching the North American regionals for League of Legends. I’ve played the game a few times, I’m really bad at it, and I know there is strategy but I’m not sure what it is. However, I knew the tournament was a huge deal this weekend so I wanted to at least see a little bit of it. And as the teams started the game and Team Dynamic drew first blood and Team Dignitas got revenge a few minutes later, I felt my involvement and excitement rising. Despite not knowing how these players were great I could tell they were great, and the energy in the room was almost palpable. That was the moment I realized PAX was so much bigger than I fathomed initially and I was a part of it and my life is awesome because of that.

3) I was waiting in line for the Destructoid panel as a Fallout cosplaying couple behind me were talking to a few people behind them. I then heard the boyfriend say that his girlfriend got some great swag earlier that morning, and the girlfriend promptly burst into tears. Unable to abate my curiosity, I turned around to see her show off a sparkling (and quite massive) engagement ring to the interested parties. My joy for them (and I’m sure the joy of everyone else in the line) was overwhelming and it struck me how gamer or non-gamer, we’re all so much the same. Beautiful things happen at PAX.

4) There are a few remote locations for panels and events outside of the convention center itself, within a few blocks of it to the north and west. As I walked from one hotel meeting room to another for the next writing panel I was attending, I realized the sun was shining and I was walking around sans jacket. I looked up in the cloudless sky and noted its absolutely perfect shade of cerulean blue. I was at a gaming convention where beautiful things happened like moon walking geth, cosplay marriage proposals, getting career advice from Chris Kohler of Wired, telling Evan Lahti of PCGamer.com that I would send him writing samples, and too many other great things to mention. The location was also beautiful. It has been an unbeatable weekend.

So far I’ve received incredible writing and career advice, I’ve laughed a lot, I’ve played some games (not nearly enough), I bought Containment for $3, and I’ve made a long list of blog topics that I should be posting faster than I’ll be able to. My brain and notebook are at full capacity with more topics I want to write about and more topics I want to get back to the convention center to cover as quickly as possible tomorrow morning for the final day of the expo. PAX has been phenomenal, more posts are coming, and thanks for sticking around.