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.

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Wolverine and Jean Grey professional cosplay:

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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

Contact Form Issues

It’s come to my attention that in the last few days my contact form suddenly stopped working!

The issue has been fixed and it is now working as it should. If you tried to reach out to me during that time and were unable to, I apologize. I can also always be reached via G+, Twitter, and Facebook. Links to my social media pages are always shown up in the right hand corner there along with the links to my Academia.edu profile and my IMdB page.

Thanks for your patience and understanding. Cheers!

-Strix

Fruition

Hey guys! It’s time to play catch-up again with what I’ve been up to.

First, Wyrd Con!

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Wyrd Con is on my own back yard, and for that I’m kind of partial to it despite its foibles. Played some larps, did some panels. The panel that I partnered on with Robert Seutter was well attended. It was called Myth and Folklore in Modern Media. There was an excellent write up done for it by TechWarriorz which can be found here. To quote from the article, “I had only gotten to see two of the panels, but they both felt as though they should be given at IVY League colleges, I was ABSOLUTELY BLOWN AWAY.” So yeah, let me pat myself on the back a little.

I had only gotten to see two of the panels, but they both felt as though they should be given at IVY League colleges, I was ABSOLUTELY BLOWN AWAY. – See more at: http://techwarriorz.com/v2/wyrd-con-experience/#sthash.gJoYWIt6.OIKMU7rc.dpuf
I had only gotten to see two of the panels, but they both felt as though they should be given at IVY League colleges, I was ABSOLUTELY BLOWN AWAY. – See more at: http://techwarriorz.com/v2/wyrd-con-experience/#sthash.gJoYWIt6.OIKMU7rc.dpuf”

Here is the video:

I also sat on the Gaming as Other Panel, which had a rather disappointing turn out for how important the topic is. I hate to say this, but it’s become clear to me that the SoCal gaming scene is several steps behind the East Coast as far as social progression and inclusiveness. We gotta work on this!

Speaking of which, Gaming as Other has released two more short videos that are definitely worth the watch. Interesting and easy to digest.

In one we tackle fantasy races:

And in the other, dealing with disaster at the gaming table:

I also finally had my academic essay, Mythic Modes in the Modern West: The Evolution of Interactive Theatre in Response to the Need for Myth, published in the International Association for Comparative Mythology journal!

10450541_265819306934704_8121160479936174080_nI am so, so excited about this. I am thrilled to be published alongside Harvard professors and the top minds in mythology throughout the world.

Another small victory is that my IMDb credits are starting to show up! It took a while, but they’re starting to trickle in as the projects I’m working on get grounded. I know it’s a little thing, and not terribly important, but it makes me pretty proud. I know have a little IMDb button in my media bar of this page at the top right. Pretty rad!

I’d also like to announce that I will be writing the L.A. City Guide for Urban Shadows, a new table top RPG that I personally think is the coolest thing to come out in a while (besides maybe Numenera).

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Urban Shadows has hired a staggering list of talent to write its city guides, and I’m super honored that I was the first one asked. I love working with Andrew and Mark. They’re good people and this is a great game.

I also did a brief appearance at Gam3rCon, where I sat on Aaron Vanek’s panel “Everything You Wanted to Know About LARP, But Were Too Afraid to Ask.” I was very pleased with the panel. I know that one of the other panelists, Kaza Marie (The Larp Girl), recorded it, so hopefully some video will turn up.

The research on LARP and technology that I’m doing through Carnegie Mellon is still going swimmingly, and I recently finished up with the 2014 volume of Between, Pacifica Graduate Institute’s literary journal. I had a great team to work with, and it could not have been done without Jesse and James. Here’s a sneak peek at the cover!

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I also just found out I passed my comprehensive exams, which means I get my Masters and am fully vetted and qualified to move on to continuing my PhD work and writing my dissertation. This is super great! I want to throw a party. Like, really. In the last two years I’ve written 20 papers just for school, not counting the ones I’ve published. I’ve read thousands and thousands of pages of text. I have faced a number of existential crisis in regards to my abilities, my ideas, everything that I’m working towards. It’s nice to say, hey, I’ve gotten this far.

The next big thing is Gen Con. I’ll be hosting full time for Games on Demand. If you’re at GenCon and you’ve never tried it, you should. It’s a wonderful experience. I’ll also be sitting on two panels. The first, headed up by Shoshana Kessock, is “Why is Inclusivity Such a Scary Word?” It’s going to be Friday at 2:00 PM in Crowne Plaza, Pennsylvania Station C. The second is our big game headliner, Gaming as Other, which is headed up by Mark Diaz Truman. This one you really, really don’t want to miss. It’s Friday at 5:00 PM at Crowne Plaza, Pennsylvania Station C as well.

I know that’s a lot to throw at you. All I can say is that I’ve been extremely, extremely busy. There’s a couple of other things in the works that I haven’t mentioned, but they can wait until there’s a little more meat behind them.

Take care. I look forward to seeing a lot of you folks at Gen Con!

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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.