#INDIEGAMEaDAY2016
Day 30: What is your fondest memory of a game you thought was fun before you knew better?

Here we are, the end of the hashtag. Everyone feeling #indieAF today?

Two things have jumped out as my takeaways of the experience:

1) I’m loving all the love letters to indie gaming. Read the posts – there are nearly two hundred of them now – and the vast, vast majority I’m seeing are enormously positive. Some of my questions were even written specifically in a “let’s start a flame war” voice. Go back through and read. Amazing.

2) I’m disappointed at the critique of the questions by a small circle of folks. I got what I wanted out of the questions, which was endless love letters to indie gaming for a solid month. But obviously, clearly, there’s a population for whom their Indie Identity is serious business and not a laughing matter. I have yet to see their opinions about the answers, only the questions.

Would I do things differently? Yeah, I would. I learned a lot and got a better grasp of the social media terrain that runs under all this. Specifically, I’d absolutely do more before-the-fact outreach to my women and POC and women POC friends to participate. Some of the best comments in my threads, at least, came from (especially) women. That might come in conflict with the tone of the questions I went with this time around.

Would I do the smug indie hipster voice again? Perhaps not again, no. I think the joke is played out. As a smug indie hipster myself, I’m kind of out of material for now (and yes, I confess I wore myself out with 30 solid days of this). But smugness is a wellspring of hilarity and inspiration! And I do love tweaking smugness about games, because ffs none of this is important. Or, at least, as important as we frequently treat it. Hence my deep skepticism of tying identity and community into hobby activities.

But oh lordy, doing them straight is also so boring. I’m sorry, but it just is. That was my beef with #rpgaday , the earnestness that reads as cluelessness. Nobody I give a shit about gives a shit about what your favorite die size is. So, that’s a problem to solve if I do something like this again in the future. I’m currently leaning super-heavily toward the “oh hell no” end of the spectrum (cue mad applause from the haters). But we’ll see.

I’m also concerned, quite concerned actually, with the unsafe environment this thing allowed here and there. The public-ness of my Collection meant that replies were public and following the hashtag was public. If you got harassed or wrongplussing put you on some enemy’s list out there, I am so sorry to hear you got subjected to that. That sucked. I ended up blocking some folks as well. It wasn’t widespread but the cost of public discourse is asymmetrical social warfare. Fight with the tools you’ve got.

The answer to today’s question is “none.” As in, I never really learned better.

Small press design has shown me a huge and varied range of what it is we’re doing, what’s possible within this amazing activity of ours. As my envelope widens, my appreciation for everything within it widens as well. Not to say that I love all gaming equally; I have tastes and preferences as well. But oh god, who cares about my tastes? Or yours?

Play games. Love games. Investigate them if you’ve got the bandwidth. Or don’t if you don’t, and squeeze what you can out of them for as long as you can.

Me? I’m headed to a con today, with a good friend who also loves games, and we’re gonna game the shit out of some games for three days straight. Some of them will involve killing monsters for their stuff. Some might involve delicious feels. All of it will involve some amount of make-believe, and none of it will save the world.

Hope y’all have a great weekend.

#INDIEGAMEaDAY2016  
Day 29: What indie game tech do you most keenly miss when you play something more mainstream? And then do you denounce the game in person or do you save it for a social media rant?

Obviously I intended this question to start a lengthy and impenetrable turf war discourse on the bright line between indie and mainstream. Obviously.

So we all know what we’re talking about right? Excellent, we can skip over the unpleasantness.

I have actual answers for this one! Minimum navel-gazing today.

Circles from Burning Wheel, or really any player-facing “take a chance on adding stuff to the world” mechanism. Circles, specifically, oh how I missed that. To those not in the know: it’s basically a stat that lets you add an NPC to the world. Might be useful, might be an enemy, doesn’t matter: if you feel like you need to add an NPC to the game, you make the test. If it fails, the best practice is typically that the NPC shows up anyway, but with a complication. That alchemist you really need to brew up a shapeshifting potion is also an informant for the Cardinal’s secret police. The sympathetic captain of the guard will totes let you through the gate but only after you’ve saved her son from the witch in the woods. Whatever. Enmity Clause ftw.

Another: relationship-making Pre-Play Questions. First I saw it so explicitly spelled out was Apocalypse World. It’s great for games with a good dose of intraparty action, especially backed up with some incentives so you keep reincorporating the stuff you said in the beginning. In Mutant: Year Zero, it generates the Ark’s relationship map and situation, and earns you XPs as you help an NPC, hinder another, and protect your PC “buddy.” I really do miss that process when it’s not available. I think Fate (FATE? (F.A.T.E.?)) has a similar pre-game “what did we do together and what aspect is derived from that experience?” thing. It’s neat. Good tech.

I miss PbtA style Moves when I’ve been playing a lot of PbtA/AWE games. It gets into my head and I shift my mode and method. The surest proof that moves are not skills is to try to treat one as the other in back-to-back games. Very different engagement and use and vibe. But the majority volume of my play isn’t PbtA so missing Moves is a temporary condition only.

I know I’m missing a ton but those are the three that jump to mind.

One more day! Anyone else excited?

I’ve pledged and cancelled on this one three times now. This is one I think I may regret if I don’t sell an organ or something.

In my perfect world there would be a Kickstarter trade in program. Here’s Empires and Redacted, I’ll take one Siege of the Citadel please.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/274643038/siege-of-the-citadel-2nd-edition-techno-fantasy-bo

#INDIEGAMEaDAY2016  
Day 28: What’s the most interesting period of obscure and unrelatable history you’d like to see a game set in? How would you do it?

Jeez…I don’t know. Jason Morningstar, for whom I wrote this question specifically but not exclusively, already had such an interesting thread about it: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JasonMorningstar/posts/5DxcdEQSB33

It’s a private share but it’s good and interesting.

I’m tempted to do the show-offy thing where I reference some tiny sliver of time and space that literally tens of people might have heard of, and they’re all total history nerds so whatever I pitched would get ‘splained into oblivion in a hundred post thread.

But if I go big, then I plow into the intersection of Pop Culture and Appropriation and nobody walks away from that car crash.

Oh yeah, I’d definitely go with the first option. Obscurity and unrelatability are both good defenses once you’re out in the world. I’m currently totally in love with my “Werewolves in Aquitaine” setting I squandered on a stupid Burning Wheel one-shot, and I want to swing back around to it. Prompting/modeling/shaping a premodern head space to play in is also one of my favorite Major Design Challenges, and I’ll probably spend my entire life trying to figure out how to do it. So I have to leave the second half of my question unanswered for now. It’s sorta-kinda been done! King Arthur Pendragon does some interesting stuff with, at least, cryptohistorical Arthurian values, but I’m not sure it’s directly portable or even the thing I’d want to do.

I had a longer post in mind about the (suit)ability of games to serve a journalistic function, but I just don’t have the energy to get into a long thing about it. Sorry. (The tl;dr answer is “yes, with massive caveats” and maybe I’ll write more about it down the road.)

Two more days! Is everyone feeling #indieAF ?

Mutant: Genlab Alpha

I’m running this at RinCon this weekend so I wanted to see how all the bits and bobs went together. It’s…not Mutant: Year Zero, not quite. But I think it’s gonna be pretty good.

I don’t have enough of the game internalized to run it as a strong one-shot like I can MYZ. I really like the feel of the strategy game overlay, and we played out one turn of that to set up the situation a bit. But the other MYZ things I’ve come to rely on don’t work the same: the food/water/rest grind doesn’t work quite the same, there’s no trade system in place, there’s no “threat to the ark” to lean on. Still feeling it out, hopefully it gels in my head by Saturday.

We have new players! Jonathan Perrine​​ has joined us, as well as Heather Bjørnebo​. New blood, new game, everyone seems to be getting along so far. I think we’re going to extend our one shot into a more regular thing.

#INDIEGAMEaDAY2016  
Day 27: What’s the very best playtest-stage game your friends probably haven’t heard of yet? How long ago did you play it and how much better was it than the current version?

Okay, I freely admit this: one of my favorite things about small press gaming culture is the accessibility to the designers. I say this coming from the world of trad publishing, which typically constrains the supply of access so as to juice demand for it. Meet at a convention, maybe find your way onto a playtest list, maybe get to a first-name basis with a line developer, maybe get invited to an afterparty…ridiculous. Fake celebrity exists so writers can be underpaid, full stop.

I totally get that indie access is imperfect. I get that there are still gatekeepers and hoops and social skills and, yes, luck involved. I promise you it’s better than the alternative. It’s better for the fans, it’s better for the creators.

Haven’t really done that much playtesting in/for indieland, tbqh. It’s so very easy to burn out playtesters, and I don’t do it too often. Once or twice a year, maybe? I’ll also confess that it can kind of tire out my players to be relentlessly charitable with an early design just so the thing is playable for longer than 15 minute stretches. It’s work to do it well.

The “earlier edition was better” business is nonsense in my experience, although I’ve gotten whiffs of it here and there and it always strikes me as some annoying insider signaling behavior. The gamer version of “the live acoustic version someone recorded on their phone in a coffee house is so much better.” Games get better with each iteration; I can’t imagine one getting worse. Maybe an interesting but unnecessary subsystem gets cut?

Of the stuff we’ve playtested, the one I’m most excited to see developed further is Jason Morningstar’s STASI AW hack. It was pretty early in his experimenting with AW, but the outline of the game I think could be really terrific. I do love me some paranoid political bureaudrama.

Mutant: Genlab Alpha
#artsandcrafts

Animal cards are laminated, cut, and looking pretty sweet. And then I remember there’s a non-trivial chance my MGA table won’t even fill up this weekend.

Well whatever, now I have them. (And duh, I’m already wishing I’d included one more thing.)

Mutant: Genlab Alpha

Hopefully doing these little cheat sheet cards up will dramatically speed up at-the-table character creation for the convention next weekend. I really don’t want to do pregens, because I feel like I get better table investment when we take the time to make characters, but MGA’s procedure is one step more involved than Year Zero: you gotta pick your animal tribe as well as everything else, and that comes with implications.

Anyway, leaving it here in case anyone plans to play later.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxZk7ypnJt47c3J5LXYwT2d6RDA/view?usp=sharing