ANNOUNCING 1st issue of Esoteric Gaming!

I am extremely pleased to announce the first collection of stories for Esoteric Gaming, a new website/book project that features accounts of diverse and niche player practice.

This is not an academic journal and doesn’t necessarily include deep thoughts, conclusions, or research. Instead, it’s a bevy of detail–a space for us to share extreme, nuanced, amazing, arcane, and totally rad things that players and communities do to play the perfect game and to make life meaningful.

I started this project (initially a coffee table art book idea) to give games scholars a venue to be creative and to not stress about deadlines or worry about our CV. This is for us to celebrate why we love games and the people who play them.

Please take a moment to read about the first issue, learn more about the mission, and submit your own stories!

Thanks for any interest and HUGE thanks to the first round of authors: Matt Bouchard, Andy Keenan, Johansen Quijano, Bjorn Shrijen, Osvaldo Jimenez, and Shannon Mortimore-Smith!

Migrating blog today…

so site might be down for a spell. Though then you wouldn’t be able to see this post… :p

Keynoting at SHACS FutureTech 2016!

I’m giving my first keynote talk at the Sam Houston Association of Computer Scientists FutureTech conference at Sam Houston State University in a couple of weeks! Here’s the abstract:

Transportation Games and Intentional Constraints

Games are about deliberately imposing obstacles on a task to make the task fun, challenging, engaging, rewarding. Yet this hasn’t been especially true with games about transportation. Instead, most transportation games, where players are building transportation infrastructure or managing the operations of a fleet of vehicles, attempt to simulate real-world logistics problems and often force players to manage them while still working under some sort of budget or using a limited resource. These simulations occupy enough of players’ cognition to satisfy their desire for challenge and reward. Simulations, by necessity, however, are only semi-real; they are incomplete systems, and finding solutions to their problems can sometimes blind us to other issues that aren’t included in the systems they portray. How can we be intentional about the constraints we design into games such that they are more inclusive? This keynote will cover the above (i.e., introduce the audience to games about transportation, examine systems in transportation games through a science and technology studies lens, and make an argument about inclusive design practices) while also describing the work Mark has been doing with the Gameful Design Lab at Pepperdine University and others. The audience might also be asked to play a game. 😉

Late update: New NASAGA podcast!

This is late reporting, but Melissa Peterson and I started to do a NASAGA podcast. In the first one we talk about identity: in games, NASAGA’s, our personal ones, etc. It’s necessarily pretty short, and there’s a TON of stuff out there on identity in and with games that we didn’t touch upon…

Anyway, here it is:

Leet Noobs color images

One thing I was disappointed about was that I had to get rid of a bunch of color images from Leet Noobs when I rewrote it as a more general audience book.


I have no idea why it took so long for me to think of this, but I’ve collected the images from my original dissertation and put them all in one PDF. Here you go: Leet Noobs images!

The book has the cover illustration, though, so maybe it’s all a wash.

NASAGA 2015!!!

Last week I was at North American Simulations and Gaming Association (NASAGA) 2015, in Seattle this year.

NASAGA2015 logo

After loving it last year (see this write-up), I volunteered as soon as I got back to Seattle from LA over the summer and basically got put in charge of the conference website by the conference co-chairs, John Chen (no relation) and Jeannette Davidson from Geoteaming.

Volunteering ballooned into a bigger job than I thought it would, but that’s fine. I still had a ton of fun and met so many awesome people. In addition to the website, I also designed a geolocation game that we played Thursday evening using GPS devices and featuring a puzzle inspired by the light rail that everyone had to take to get downtown. Wee!

Most of the work was done in partnership with Melissa Peterson, who I got to know a lot better this year than last year. She and I were two of the people in the group I was with that was trying the #gameaweek challenge last year, but this past week I really enjoyed working with her… She’s awesome.

As it happens, I also was invited (first by Melissa… so maybe she was buttering me up) and accepted nomination and then a vote into the board! So now I’m a board member for NASAGA! Other board members include Samantha Knight, Melissa Peterson, Christy Cavanaugh, Jeannette Davidson, Jen McCann, Linda Slack, Dani Abrams, Chuck Needlman, and Chris Saeger. I can’t be excited more to be working with them. 🙂

One thing I’d like to work on is stronger ties with other associations (ABSEL, ISAGA, JASAG, SAGSAG, etc. Basically everything associated with the journal Simulation & Gaming). I also wouldn’t mind if NASAGA did a bit more to bridge the gap between research and practice… and so I’m volunteering to help out with NASAGA 16 in Bloomington, Indiana Oct 26-29 with Christy Cavanaugh chairing. At one point she invited me to co-chair but hadn’t realized I was also being invited to the board… I have been advised that serving on both is really, really ill-advised. Tho she’s doing it, so who knows?

On the last day, I did a rapid-fire game jam after a quick intro to 12 free game-making tools from the big list I did in August. Here’s the slides from that:

Jam w Free Digital Game Making Apps!

Jam with Free Digital Game Making Apps!

Just some updates coming in

As you can probably tell, I’m finally posting to this blog again. The last post was way back in January.

I’ve got about half a dozen drafts that I’ll finish up this week and next.

I might have news to share by then, too.

Playing the Witcher 3 again

So, I got a new graphics card (970 GTX) to play through the Witcher 3 again with higher graphics qualities…

But upon installing it, I was reminded that I could import my save game from The Witcher 2:

Screenshot 2015-08-27 15.06.57

Having played through 3 once already, I know there’s a simulated save game import through a barber shaving interrogation scene, but I thought… ah hell… I should prob just replay 2 so I can remind myself what the story was about and have a more meaningful experience with 3. I remember thinking that there’s all this mention of Yennefer that really didn’t make sense to me when I played 2 way back when, but now having played 3, I could appreciate mention of her like people who’ve read the source books…

I don’t have much space on my HD, though, so I had to uninstall 3 to make room for 2. Then I got this:

witcher 2 decision


Jeez. Ok. What the hell… Might as well uninstall The Witcher 2, install The Witcher, and start completely over!

I do remember The Witcher relatively well, having done a review of it for E-Learning, but I never played through the Enhanced Edition.

But, you know, then I thought: there’s probably some good mods that’ve come out since The Witcher was first released… And lo and behold:

witcher.rise of the white wolfHurrah!

So, last week, I finished The Witcher with Rise of the White Wolf. The Enhanced Edition seemed like an improvement, but it was still pretty clunky. Combat takes some getting used to, characters clip and stutter like crazy in cutscenes, and there’s something seriously wrong with how Zoltan looks…

Anyway, this week and next and maybe longer, I’ll be playing The Witcher 2 (with mods). And hopefully in October I can finally do my second comprehensive playthrough of The Witcher 3. Maybe by then there’ll be some good mods for it, too.

*Knowing what I know now, it seems crazy that no one in The Witcher mentions Yennefer explicitly (though, interestingly, there are little tidbits here and there of the Wild Hunt and a tale of a witcher and a sorceress being in love, etc.). And, wow, Triss totally took advantage of Geralt’s memory loss… Making me rethink what choices I want to make in 3 next month…


Game Making Tools Round Up

Games are about two things: agency and empathy.

Games are made up of systems of rules or constraints and particular goals. When a player explores these systems, they make meaning from the relationship that emerges out of their actions with the possibility space of the game systems. When they start to understand the systems, they gain agency–the ability to make decisions and affect change.

Games are also made up of stories. A designer has a particular story or experience they wish to convey, and a player has a particular history with a game that can be retold and shared. This sharing of experiences, like good books, are the surest way I know towards building empathy.

All this is to say, we ought to encourage gaming literacy with a focus on building these two things. And not just encourage playing games in a critical, reflective way, but also encourage all people to make games and tell their stories.

Luckily, there’s a ton of free game-making tools out there that are easy to use, many of them requiring no programming experience and some of them not even requiring art. It’s often assumed that making games is about the programming and art, but I believe the true power of learning game design is in learning how to plan and design relationships and experiences.

So, here’s a round up of some free tools that anyone can jump right into using. You could try them out over a weekend, during a game jam, or whenever you have free time!

Continue reading Game Making Tools Round Up

WIP Coastal Run game using Twine #gameawhenever

Pepperdine University Coastal Run/Walk Game test

Not final at all but a test to see if I could recreate the awesome Three Fourths Home mechanic of having to continually hold a key down to progress in the story using CSS and javascript in Twine.

In Three Fourths Home, you hold the key to drive your car through a thunderstorm. In this game for Pepperdine, it’s to keep running in a charity 10k.

Currently, it seems to work only for desktop computers… Holding a key down interferes with a touch event from a touchpad, apparently… Also, I spent almost all of today trying to implement a similar touch-here-to-keep-playing thing for touchscreens, but whenever I seemed to get it to work on iOS, it stopped working on Android and vice versa. bleh.

Anyway, thought I’d document it as part of the #gameaweek #gameamonth #gameawhenever challenge. 🙂

twine2.coastalrunAlso, I should mention that I started this game during the Reed College Paideia Game Jam last weekend, organized by the awesome Joe Wasserman! Another Reedie, Kylie Moses, and I here in LA did a concurrent satellite jam where we were co-present via Google Hangouts.

Also, also, this is my first go at using Twine 2.0, the snazzy browser-based tool… though I had to revert it to SugarCube format so that stuff I knew how to do would still work…

sporadic ramblings of a gamer in academia

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