Tag Archive for AAR

Game Design in the New Year

Hey Folks, Strix here. I’ve got a mega update for you, so buckle up!

When you heard from me last it was August and I was about to embark upon Gen Con. This year’s Gen Con was great, and really transformative. It’s the first year that I’ve hooked up with Games on Demand, and let me just say, they are THE best organized gaming collective I have ever come across. Professional, diligent, empathic, and really good taste in indie games. GoD does an excellent job at maintaining a safe space where everybody can have fun, and I was super impressed. It was a pleasure working with them as a host, and I’ll be coming back in 2015 as an organizer.

I also sat on a few panels about diversity and inclusivity, cosplayed, attended the Diana Jones Award, etc. This year was also my first Peter Atkison suite party. Very entertaining. Gaming as Other was on the ground doing some work behind closed doors. Things are still in progress, so I can’t say a whole lot about it at the moment.

GenConLarge

Wolverine and Jean Grey professional cosplay:

nailed

While at Gen Con I also attended the Hacking as Women event hosted by Indie Game Developer Network. IGDN brought in some heavy hitters from the indie world and sat participants down to come up with new games and work on their design for a few hours. Which is exactly what we did. I ended up being paired with a complete stranger, Sarah Richardson. But we got on quickly and we found we had a shared passion for mythology and fairy tales. We decided that we wanted to make a game based off one of the classical dark fairy tales, but which one? I suggested we do Bluebeard, and it just clicked. We were placed with Marissa Kelly, IGDN organizer and designer of Epyllion, who was supposed to be giving us pointers, but we all got so wrapped up in it that when the hacking event was done, none of us were willing to let it go. There was just something about Bluebeard that was amazing, and as we pitched it around the room it was clear that we had something good.

The three of us have been developing it ever since, and it’s gone swimmingly. We had our first playtest at Metatopia 2014, and our next playtest will be at Dreamation. When it’s all put together we’ll be publishing through Magpie Games, sometime in late 2015. I’ve worked on a lot of other people’s games in different capacities. This is the first one that is really mine. My two co-designers are brilliant, and I am so exited about getting this out into the wild. Here is a little bit of what I’ve written about Bluebeard’s Wife before. If you’re interested on getting glimpses of the development process, I suggest you go circle me on Google+, where I talk the most about these things.

The fairy tale of Bluebeard is one of the darkest in the European tradition. It’s the story of a young, poor bride who marries a rich and cunning nobleman who has already had several wives. He whisks her away to his castle where he gives her pearls and silks, the keys to every door. But the smallest key, he says, you must never use.

It is a trap, of course. Bluebeard leaves his wife alone in the castle and she wanders the rooms, trying to avoid the one room she must not enter, but ultimately drawn to it, and her doom. When she opens that last door she finds…well, it’s best if you see for yourself. 

In our game you play the Complexes, different aspects of Bluebeard’s wife; the Virgin, the Witch, the Mother, and many others, as Bluebeard’s Wife tries to navigate the castle, perhaps trying to find a way out of the front gate, or a way into Bluebeard’s heart, but always drawn towards the last room. The castle tests her sanity, and not every part of her will survive–if any part of her does at all.

This game is dark, erotic, and filled with creeping terror. It’s about the intricacies of feminine horror, which, trust me, is a vast and rich tradition. Unfortunately it’s a tradition that has remained virtually untapped in the indie gaming scene. We hope Bluebeard’s Wife will be the start of an exploration of a vital and powerful genre.

In short: PLAY BLUEBEARD. FEEL HORRIFIED. 

bluebeardpromo

In August I also sat on an hour long Indie+ web panel, “How to Build an RPG Community.” You can watch it here:

In September I attended SandCon, which really wasn’t a con at all, but a private event in a rented beach house out on the Jersey shore. SandCon was great because there were a lot of cutting edge thinkers there, and there were some very lively and intelligent discussions going on at all hours of the day and night. There were also great games, and new things being tried out. I got to test out John Harper’s Blades in the Dark as well as experience Jackson Tegu’s Silver and White for the first time. My big contribution was giving body surfing lessons and facilitating a larp in which all the players were eight year-olds at a birthday party. We did not bring enough paper towels.

SandCon

I finished up the Los Angeles City Guide for Urban Shadows, and I’m very happy with how it turned out. There is a lot of awesome flavor, but my favorite piece of the work was bringing to life the kick-ass vengeful Chumash spirit bent on destroying L.A. Urban Shadows should be doing their full release soon. I can’t wait for you guys to play in my setting!

I also sat as one of four judges for the Golden Cobra Challenge, a freeform design competition. I was amazed, simply amazed by the diversity and quality of the submissions that came to us. There were about 50 entries, and it was extremely hard for us to pick the winners. My personal favorite out of the bunch is Still Life, a freeform game where you’re playing…rocks. But no! I promise it’s beautiful and compact and very cleverly designed and I am in love with it. There were so many other good ones as well, like REBOOT, Glitch Iteration, Dream Bear, I could go on and on. You can download the Golden Cobra Anthology of all the games that the designers elected to include here (Warning, massive PDF). I think that we are going to see many of these games become fairly popular among the indie and freeform crowd, and I’m honored to have been apart of such a massive creative endeavor.

14 - 1

I, along with a bunch of other talented and inspiring people, have also been helping with James Stuart’s brainchild, Different Play. Different Play is a Patreon initiative to diversify analog games. Our goal is to offer previously unpublished writers support through mentoring, feedback, editing, and design services. AND they get paid for their work. We’re really excited to be bringing this to life, and we’ve already received enough support to begin the development process with four new designers. You can find out more about them and their games on the Different Play website (different from the Patreon site). I would, of course, suggest that you invest in this particular Patreon project. Contributions will directly aid the community in developing a more robust and diverse design scene, which only makes the scene healthier, stronger, and more interesting.

14dd8613133daaad183716792170c8deAll of us working on project CHINA decided to ice it for a few months, but in February we’ll be picking it back up again. The producers have put Tinker on hold for financing issues, and ADAM 8 is in the course of looking for its private investor funding, now that a sufficient chunk of pre-production has been put out. I’ve been so busy in the gaming industry that I haven’t pursued a whole lot of new Hollywood projects in the last few months. We’ll see what direction that goes from here.

As for the academic front, there’s been plenty going on there too. The AAR annual conference was hosted in my home city this year, so I got lucky. I passed my doctoral comp exams and received my masters degree in September. The paper I was publishing in the Wyrd Con Companion book got delayed, so it looks like it’s going in next round. I have several others in development, and I’m considering what conferences I want to submit to this year. My research with Carnegie Mellon’s game lab continues, and I’ve in fact branched out to assist with research in other areas of the HCI department as well. With assistance from Emily Care Boss I wrote a ludography of larp for CMU’s internal use. I also assisted with a study on massive online open classrooms (MOOCs). I’ve made friends at CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) too, which is a separate department. I’ve been invited out to speak at their transformative game conference this spring, and I’m currently consulting for a game design class in which students are tackling the sticky topic of sexual assault. Working with everyone at CMU has been a great pleasure so far, and I really like the institution. Their HCI department is cutting edge not just in their approach to science, but in their approach to their own culture. I really dig it.

Coming up in February I’ll be attending Dreamation. I don’t have the full details for the tranformative games conference yet, but it’s looking to be some time in April. Looking even farther ahead, I will likely be spending a large chunk of my summer—roughly a month to a month and a half—volunteering for an NGO in India where I’ll primarily be teaching at a residential school.

2015 looks promising, both for me, and hopefully for what I can contribute to the community. Be well my friends.

Best,
Strix

Getting Gritty

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any busier, they did! More projects, more panels, more academic pursuits. I’m very happy to be so connected with so many wonderful people.

So let’s start with some bad news/good news. The panel I was hoping to get in on at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting didn’t form. Just not enough people putting forward abstracts for that particular subject (which was the relational space between ARGs/LARPs and religion/myth). I think a Gothic Monsters panel formed instead. Alas. I got a pat on the head for my proposal, but ultimately it had nowhere to go, so it’s getting shelved for now. This is actually the first time I have ever been turned down on a proposal. It looks like my long running lucky streak is finally over. In a way, this is actually good. As an academic it’s important for me to be able to respond resiliently to critique and setbacks, and the best way to do that is through practice. Well, not too much practice : p

The good news is that I was offered a summer research position at Carnegie Mellon, working out of the brand new games lab under the amazing leadership of games scholar Jessica Hammer. I’ll be doing research on larpers, specifically. Hurrah! I’m very honored and incredibly excited for this opportunity. Good research is going to come out of this that will hopefully benefit the community in the long run.

Other good news: I found out just today that my proposal for an academic paper in the upcoming peer reviewed section of the Wyrd Con Companion Book has been accepted. I’m starting to feel a little old hat, as this will be my third year publishing in this journal in a row. However, I’m excited that I have managed to lay the foundation for the type of scholarship being approached so that now we can really delve into it. The Wyrd Con Companion Book has always selected a variety of excellently research papers, and I am proud to be in good company.

Backing up a little bit, I was also recently a speaker at Maelstrom, an innovative new gaming convention on the East Cost whose panel series focused heavily on minority issues. I basically talked until a dropped, sitting on two round tables and an additional three panels. It was awesome and I would definitely consider going back next year. Mad props to Avonelle Wing for making the entire thing possible and helping foster an environment where minorities can have a voice.

Fotor0501172025

I am also participating in an Indie + miniseries called Gaming As Other. This should probably be familiar to a few people by now, as I’ve participated in a series of Gaming As Other panels and speaking events already. They’re short little clips that boil down to a few key ideas each time. I believe we are running a series of three. The first one has already been completed, and you can watch it here!

Other than that I’m still slaving away at my current projects in both Hollywood and the gaming sphere. I made a brief appearance at WonderCon, and I’m now gearing up for Wyrd Con in May. And yep, still doing the Ph.D. thing. Life is good. See you around!

The Longest Winter

Winter has been both fun and challenging. Waded through some major changes and made sure to keep on the horse. Some exciting things have been going on and are continuing to develop into even more exciting things.

December was paper writing crunch time for grad school. Early February I was up in L.A. for script work and I ended up being pulled into a fashion show! I have not done professional modeling in a long, long time, but I managed not to trip on the runway despite the buckets of fake blood that got spilled all over the catwalk from the designer before us. Eek! I walked for the Aneroc label, which belongs to my friend and talented costume designer Corena Gibson. It was a lot of fun, and for me, very nostalgic.

Fotor0306171317

I also got to drop in on an interview with Camden Toy. Camden is a cool guy and I’m glad that he’s working with us on ADAM 8. I did get some actual work done though, and picked up two new scripts that I’ve been working on since, as well as pitched around some ideas with the writer/producer I’m working with. Fun times in Hollywood. You never know what’s going to happen.

In late February and early March I turned my attention towards the East Coast convention circuit. First up was DREAMATION, hosted by Double Exposure. Wonky website aside, it was an amazing gathering of cutting edge indie game designers and awesome players. It’s the most progressive and positive gaming convention I’ve ever attended. While there, I participated in a Gaming as Other panel, part of a series of panels that tackles the sticky topic of minority issues in the gaming community and within games themselves. As a bi-racial Mexican-American woman who has been a part of the gaming community for a long time, this is a pretty important topic to me, and one that I have a lot to say about. You can watch the video below.

I also got to play some really fun games, and have a strategy meeting for the Super Secret Project while there. The one negative? It was really cold!

Fotor0306172743Fotor0306201629

After that was Intercon N, which while not quite so progressive as DREAMATION, was still enjoyable. I sat on three panels at Intercon, including an additional one in the Gaming as Other series, which I don’t think was quite as well received as it had been at previous cons where it was presented. My favorite panel was the one I sat on with other academics, discussing the psychology of playing characters. I could have gone on for hours, hours!

Fotor0311164911

Overall, I’m sure I’ll be returning to the East Coast. There are a lot of interesting things going on there, and I definitely need more time to explore.

I also submitted to the call for papers for this year’s annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, the biggest conference in the world in my field. I have been biting my nails ever since! I’ll find out in April if my proposal is accepted, but I really think I might have a chance. How many other people can there be that are experts on the intersectionality of religion with ARGs and LARPs? It’s an extremely competitive conference though, so while I can’t lie and say I won’t be let down if I don’t get accepted this year, there will be many other chances in the future.

And just so the cycle completes itself it’s now time for another graduate school paper crunch. Woo.

End of Year Roundup, Some Annoucements!

The last two months of have been a whirlwind.

Things got kicked off with Comikaze in Los Angeles. I was there as talent for Tinker. It was a lot of fun and I met a lot of great people in the industry including Chuck Patton, who is my absolute hero for being an animator for both Spawn and Captain Planet. That show warped my mind with its environmentalist agenda, and is essentially how I wound up in the Peace Corps! We got to hang out and talk for a while, and it was really great.

Clearly enthralled with Chuck.

Clearly enthralled with Chuck.

There were lots of great photo ops, and I even manage to snag a pic with the actual Power Rangers! Weirdly, I also had a conversation about Jungian psychology in popular media with some guy from Universal. You just never know at these things.

Fotor1205180149

Then there was the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Baltimore. This was a heavy hitting academic conference, and a complete 180 from Comikaze. I was non-presenting this year, just so I get get my legs under me and see what it is like, but next year I will definitely be submitting an abstract. There were many, many wonderful panels and there was just not enough time to attend them all. Several of my favorites talked about ethnographic studies of possession and mediumship, experiences in field work, and state exams in feudal China. Really, really fascinating stuff. Baltimore was way colder than I would have liked, but it turns out their beer isn’t so bad. Several professors and fellow students from my program were also in attendance, and it was pretty fun to roll as a group. Pacifica was very well represented, and I was proud.

Finally came LosCon 40, a science fiction convention also in L.A. I presented there last year and it was a pretty good experience, so I was looking forward to running some more panels. We ran “How to Date a God” and “Surviving Nightmares” and they both went over really well. There’s actually a lot of mythology involved in the landscape of dreams and nightmares, and it was so fun getting to share that with others. It was, however, our first run of Nightmares and I was a little nervous. It’s a dicey and often times very personal subject, but it was really great to see the audience connect with the material and wordlessly create a safe space for the subject to be talked about by all of us.

Fotor1205174616

So that finishes up 2013 for me. However, I’ll have nary a pause. There are a few exciting things coming up.

In January I’ll be NPCing for the Steampunk Murder Mystery at the Steampunk Symposium, which is always tons of fun. The Symposium is staged on the Queen Mary, and it doesn’t get more cool or spooky than that. I will also be COMING OUT OF GM RETIREMENT to help the venerable and talented Mike Young run a LARP at the Symposium. I retired from GMing in 2010 after years of running a Legend of the Five Rings network. It had been very rewarding, but also tiring as hell, so I decided that I would take a very long, maybe permanent break from GMing. However, it looks like this one time (and this one time only!) I’m going to be chipping in and helping Mike run the show. You really, really don’t want to miss it.

In early spring I will be attending the Dreamation and Intercon N circuit. This is my first trip out to the East Coast gaming scene, and I’m curious to see how things are done there. There’s a lot of indie folks out that way, and they always seem to be up to something interesting. I may or may not be sitting in on a variety of panels. I think we’re talking about maybe two right now, but I’ll let you guys know as that develops.

Other things that are going on: I’ve joined onto another project with director/producer Sean Williams. I’m not comfortable giving away any details yet, but it’s a really interesting script and I can’t wait to get working on it. It’s nothing at all like ADAM 8, which is the sci-fi feature currently in pre-production. I’ve also joined an indie game project headed up by game designer Brennan Taylor. It’s also a secret for right now, sorry! But I can tell you that it does have something to do with my roots in Legend of the Five Rings. I am super, super stoked about this project, and I think we’re going to have a beautiful end product. I can’t wait to talk about it!

Otherwise I’m still doing the Ph.D. thing full time. Somehow. Have some abstract deadlines coming up for a few conferences and publications. Have joined a couple of independent study groups on top of that. I’ve also decided that I’d like additional language acquisition on top of the Spanish and the little of Kichwa that I know. I was thinking German but now I’m no so sure. Suggestions?

See you kids around,
Strix

The Academy

Quick events updated.

Don’t miss me at the Tinker Steampunk booth at Comikaze Expo in L.A. this weekend. I’m excited to be returning this year. It’s a great con.

Arrangements to attend the American Academy of Religion annual meeting came through at the last minute. So I’ll be in Baltimore November 22nd through 27th. If you’re out that way, hit me up!

Also, check out this exclusive published on Sci-Fi Mafia about ADAM 8! It’s the inside scoop straight from the (crack) horse’s mouth, as Sean, my friend and the producer of ADAM 8, tells how Crackhorse Productions is tackling this feature project. Now that I’ve finished up the re-writes it looks like I’ll be moving into a more technical role within the production. I’m super stoked!

ADAM 8 is currently fundraising for a little bit of capital so that it can get pre-production rolling. It’s straight up for art department stuff so that we can develop all of our awesome visual goodies. The t-shirts are pretty cool, so consider snagging one before the chance passes you by.

That’s it! See you kids around.

© 2008-2016 by Strix