Sunday, August 31, 2008

Films

Before I start, I'd like to point out that I've just recently discovered Asobrain, where you can log in to play, for free, online versions of Settlers of Catan, as well as Carcassone and a couple other silly games. They don't call them Catan or Carcassone; they call them Xplorers and Toulouse, since they aren't actually approved, associated, or licensed by the creators of Catan or Carcassone. But they're the same games, all right. You can play basically with any of the expansions, and you can play against human players or against bots or both. My fans should log in and play with me sometime!

Anyway, on to the topic of today's essay. I started thinking about films about gamers the last few days, over the course of two separate events. The first is that I felt the need to watch Über Goober. The second is that my wife found a video on YouTube that was an ad for a "series" called Gamerz.

Über Goober is a documentary about gamers. It examines the three main types: historical miniatures war gamers, roleplayers, and LARPers. It was made by non-gamers, so it does a good job of looking at gamers from the outside and examining them in a truly impartial way, exploring humour based on gamers both mainstream (like when Lisa Simpson asks a guy wearing a helmet and a shirt that says "Game Master" if she can sit with him, and he says, "Yes, if you can answer me these questions three. Question the first..." and she says "never mind," and walks away) and gamer humour (like the Dork Tower comic). It also examines the controversy involved in gaming, like the James Dallas Egbert III fiasco, as well as the role played (hah!) by gaming in the Columbine shootings and the religious backlash against gamers.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Board Game Review - Settlers of Catan

It's been a while since I've reviewed any board games, so I think it's time to do so now. Let's do Settlers of Catan today. I realise that if you're reading this blog, chances are good that you've played this game before. Still, it's a great game, and I like it a lot, so I'm going to review it anyway.

Remember the review system? Here we go:
Strategy and Randomness are rated from 0 to 6. A 0 means the rated aspect plays no part in determining the game's outcome; and a 6 means that it is the only factor that determines the game's outcome. Complexity is also rated from 0 to 6; a 0 means that it's so simple a six-year-old can play it, a 3 means any adult should have no trouble playing, and a 6 means that you'll need to refer to the rulebook frequently. Humour can be rated as 'None,' meaning the game is not meant to be funny, or it may have one or more of the following: Derivative (meaning the humour is based on an outside source, such as a game based on a comedy film), Implicit (meaning that the game's components are funny, such as humourous card text), or Inherent (meaning that the actions the players take are funny). Attractiveness has nine possible ratings. Ideal: the game is beautiful and makes game play easier. Pretty: The design is beautiful and neither eases nor impedes game play. Nice: The design is beautiful but makes game play harder than necessary. Useful: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but eases gameplay. Average: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Useless: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Utilitarian: The design is ugly, but eases gameplay. Ugly: The design is ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Worthless: The design is ugly, andmakes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take.
Strategy: 4
Randomness: 3
Complexity: 3
Humour: None.
Attractiveness: I'm torn between giving this game a rating of "Nice" and "Average."
Expected Length of Game Play: an hour and a half.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A brief rant on computer games

I have a great t-shirt. It was given to me by a friend of mine; it had Igor from Dork Tower sitting on a street corner holding a sign that reads, "Will game for food."

I wear this shirt rather frequently. People see this shirt and think I'm talking about computer games (there was one memorable incident when I was wearing it in a gambling town in Colorado, and someone thought it was in reference to casinos).

I don't generally care for computer games, and I'll tell you why: it's not because of the graphics. It's not because of the gameplay, or the mechanics, or even necessarily the story. It's because of the replay value. Most computer games (especially if we're talking about console gaming, like the PlayStation or XBox or Nintendo) are story-based RPGs. They do have some non-linear games, like the Wii Fit (which has me scratching my head; yes, it's a good idea, but where did anyone get the idea that this was a game?), or old classics like Tetris and Intelligent Qube (there was a great game; the only game for the PlayStation that I really liked, and no one else liked it, so it didn't sell), or things like Mario Kart. But most of them are the sort of story-based games like Final Fantasy or The Elder Scrolls. And in my opinion, once you've played the game once, why play it again? You've seen the story. These sorts of games seem to me more like a very long movie, only at several points, you have to undergo some sort of task or else figure out where to go and what to do to get to the next part of the movie, and if you fail, you have to try again until you get it right. That seems kind of silly to me.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Interactive

Some of you may have seen this video already:

That is part 1, part 2 is here:


For those of you who haven't, and don't want to spend 16 minutes watching it (I think you should; it's an encouraging look at the future of societal entertainment), the basic gist of it is this: People are no longer content to simply sit back and consume entertainment that has been produced by someone else; they are realising that they enjoy producing entertainment of their own.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Munchkin Quest

I just read a review for the forthcoming Munchkin Quest board game by Steve Jackson Games.

For those that don't know, this game is, in essence, converting their popular Munchkin series of games into a board game. The Munchkin games started with the first Munchkin set, and was supplemented by six expansions, all of these being set in a typical fantasy setting. The idea is that it's making fun of the standard D&D game, which is a bunch of power gamers and/or butt kickers running around a dungeon killing monsters and taking their treasure. The cliché is "Open door, insert sword, collect treasure." And Munchkin trades heavily on that cliché.

The game consists of two decks of cards: the first is the "Door" cards. Your turn consists of "kicking down a door" (drawing a door card). Most of these are monsters, which you fight by comparing your level to the monster's level; the higher level wins. If you win, you are rewarded with an increase to your level and a number of "Treasure" cards (the other deck). If you lose, you have a chance to run away, and if you blow that as well, then "Bad Stuff" happens (exactly what Bad Stuff depends on the monster you're fighting). If the door card is not a monster, it will serve as a "game effects" card, allowing you to affect the game play in some way.