Saturday, March 16, 2024

Sandboxes and Skilltesting

Magic: the Gathering is an omnipresent game in the nerdy gaming space. It's been around for decades and shaped multiple other major games in the field, defining what customizable card games (CCGs) look like to multiple generations of players. Many of Magic's fans think of it as the best thing since sliced food tokens. My own relationship with the game is more complicated. There's plenty I appreciate about it, but I've also come to feel that it's more of a sandbox for doing things than it is an interesting game.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Games That Clicked: History, Harkonnens, Heartbreak

I've been shaped by so many games. I wanted to make something like a "Top 5 Games that meant something to me" post, but I quickly realized that it was hard to boil things down that much. Instead, I wanted to do something more casual, something brisker, and just chat about some of the games that stuck with me over the years. Every game I've played has left me with something, no matter how small, but these are the games that captured me, games that connected with me, even for just a fleeting moment.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Playing With Pinball

An image of a pinball game, with the name "3D Space Cadet Pinball"
Good ol' Space Cadet Pinball. How's that for a throwback?

Once upon a time, I learned the joys of a wonderful little game called "Space Cadet Pinball". I bashed the flippers, I sent the ball rocketing, I even learned how to shoot the ball up that left ramp over and over again. Then times changed, that little pinball game on my computer was no longer compatible with my version of Microsoft Windows. I had to tuck it away in the corners of my memory, but I always thought about it now and again. Then last year, I picked up a free pinball game. I quickly got enough enjoyment out of it to buy a selection of tables, and I've been playing them a lot. And I've had some interesting thoughts about how, exactly, these games build the experiences they do--including, surprisingly, storytelling.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Creating Emotion in Games: Wrapping It Up

I didn't really expect my retrospective of Creating Emotion in Games to wind up like this. It's been a while since I've been motivated to recap the next part, and there's a few reasons for that. With at least five, six more blog posts that need to be surmounted in order to finish the project, it was beginning to look intimidating, especially because they just weren't getting creatively fulfilling to me. I'm going to unpack some of that here, along with some of the other things that were beginning to make this a frustrating project.

So I think it's time to call it. Officially, this is going to be the last post in the retrospective, but I'll be talking about the things I want to write about going forward, because I have plenty of ideas ready to go!

Monday, October 9, 2023

Game Moments: an Outburst in Girl by Moonlight

There's a moment in an RPG session that's going to stick with me for some time, I think. Not necessarily for how dramatic or important it was, but for how miraculously effortless it was. I was playing a session of Girl by Moonlight, a game about magical girls in the midst of turmoil. My character, Aster, was doing physical training at the gym with her teammate Solania-Vetis when she pushed too far and collapsed. When she was advised to be mindful of her limits, Aster lashed out and said "I don't want to have limits!"

It surprised me, because it just popped out, and yet it also perfectly fit the situation, because of the way that the game set things up--it was the sort of spontaneous outburst that I hadn't really experienced in games for some time. Let's have a look at what came together for that moment...

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Creating Emotion in Games, Part 5: Digging into NPCs

 In Part 4 of the Creating Emotion in Games retrospective, we had a bit of a double feature, covering the core concepts of Groups and the fundamental ideas behind NPC dynamics. This time around, we're going full-on into the meat of NPC techniques, exploring plot arcs, chemistry with the player character, and more!

Monday, August 28, 2023

Creating Emotion in Games, Part 4 -- Groups and NPC Relationships

If you're new to my retrospective on Creating Emotion in Games, start at the first post and work your way forward; it'll make more sense! If you're just catching up--in part 3, we got introduced to the book's basic ideas--how to define non-player characters (NPCs), give them interesting traits, and then add deeper texture to them. This time around, it's a bit more of a mix of content--there's still more about NPCs, but we're also going to move into some more unique (and game-specific) territory: groups and factions.