Fireflies & Laserbeams

GenCon 2019 Impressions

Monday August 5, 2019 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | Blogging | Leave Comments

The crew day 1This year was my best GenCon experience of them all. TSR-GenCon-34-Program-2001My first GenCon was in 2001, when it was still in Milwaukee and it was something new for me then. Video gaming had a huge year and I am struggling to think of anything that was revolutionary in the RPG, Board or Card gaming industry in that time frame. Wizards of the Coast had come out with their version of the Star Wars RPG the year prior and they had a big presence that year. I am a huge Star Wars geek. There were some well-known television stars in attendance that year, as well. GenCon moved to Indy in 2003. My whole family went down to try and get in that year. There was a line around the block of people waiting just to get inside the convention center. They were not prepared for the number of people that showed up, nor did they have a good plan for registration. A lot of people didn’t get in. Including us. My wife was quite pregnant then if memory serves and we didn’t wait around. I missed a few years but then started attending again. I took my older two kids in 2008 I think it was. Four years ago, my oldest son, Nick, had his first taste of GenCon without tagging along with me. We had a pretty good time. I was focused mainly on the Writer’s Symposium. I then skipped a year and went back in 2016. 2017 was my youngest son’s first visit and he had a great time. [caption id="attachment_1546" align="alignleft" width="275"]Cardspiracy Playtest Cardspiracy Playtest[/caption] This year we had big plans and actually started thinking about what we wanted to do months in advance. I also did something this year that I had never done before, play in the First Exposure Playtest Room. It was so much fun I went back for seconds. I am adding this to my plan every year from now on. I got to test two new games being developed by Brainworm Inc., Dauntless Dirigibles and Cardspiracy. Both were fun and easy to learn. I hope they sell a lot of these games. Lock and Brent were fun to work with. I met a lot of game developers this weekend and the amazing thing to me is how many of these companies are run by just a couple or people. One was just one guy. I always love the Art Show and Author’s Avenue area. Saw some amazing art and [caption id="attachment_1547" align="alignright" width="208"]Steve Williams Art Steve Williams' Art Work for BalanceSheet[/caption] perhaps an artist to do cover art if I end up self-publishing. I do plan to do some hybrid publishing of some older stuff or short works later on. Loved Steve Williams' stuff. Nick and I sat in on Lisa Stevens talk about her experiences in the industry and it was amazing. It was a little misleading by title alone, Auntie Lisa's Story Hour. She has to have been involvLisa Stevensed with more epic RPGs and card games than anyone in the last thirty years. She is now the CEO for Paizo Publishing, makers of Pathfinder. She helped develop Vampire: The Masquerade (One of my all-time favorites,) and got in on the ground floor at Wizards of the Coast and the development of Magic the Gathering. She was president of the Role Playing Game Association (RPGA) and the Star Wars fan club. Just an amazing life in the gaming industry, both as a player and a producer. So  much more to tell, but if you ever make it to GenCon, you have to sign up for this talk. Steve JacksonRan into the legendary Steve Jackson. He is probably responsible for more games than anyone in the history of gaming. I don't know that for a fact but he has been making games for a long time. Next year is his 40th anniversary for his game company, Steve Jackson Games. He told me they are working on an updated version of Car Wars. I had the original pocket game from back in the early 80s. They did a Kickstarter earlier this year to do a re-release of all the old pocket games. Nick and I played a lot of games this year, including Magic the Gathering, The Red Dragon Inn, Hero Flix and a bunch of games demoed on the Exhibitor’s Hall floor. We both sprinkled in some discussion panels that we enjoyed. I sat in on a talk with Cherie PriestCherie Priest and it was great. I also got her to sign a book, but was disappointed to find out the distributor for Half Price Books had stopped doing books about a month before the con, so they didn’t have any of her books for sale there. She is a lovely person. All in all it was a great long weekend. What made it so great? Connecting to people. We met a lot of game developers this weekend. Nick just graduated from Indiana University with a degree in game design, so it has some real meaning for him, and it’s a great chance to get to know people in the industry, not just have fun, which we did. We actually learned a few things as well. Protospiel is a thing where game designers get together and playtest each other’s games. I had never heard of it before. We are excited for next year, and plan to be even more prepared and do more playtesting. I will reserve an entire afternoon for walking the floor in the Exhibit Hall. Maybe two, there is so much to see and do and buy. One of these years we are going to stay in the Marriott and play all night. Is there a convention you like to go to? Writing or gaming or pop culture?

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5 Things Friday: Things to Love about GENCON

Friday August 2, 2019 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | 5 Things | Leave Comments

Gen-Con-2019It’s Day Two of GENCON 2019. I’m there as this posts. Spent most of the day yesterday there as well, and I’ll be there tomorrow, too. What makes it so awesome? Well, here is a short list:

  1. It’s the largest gaming convention in the North America. Over sixty-one thousand people attended last year. It takes up most of the downtown convention area in Indianapolis, including the football stadium. The focus is on non-video games, i.e. role playing games, like Dungeons and Dragons, card games like Magic the Gathering, and board games like Sorry or Risk. There are so many variations on a theme. They cover miniatures and video games too.
  2. They have a wonderful writing track, one of the best in the country according to some authors. They have workshops and classes that go the entirety of the convention. This year The GENCON Writers Symposium has eight featured speakers and dozens of others lined up, from all aspects of the writing community. The guest of honor is Cherie Priest! They have remarkable writers every year.
  3. The Exhibit Hall is amazing. All the big gaming companies are there and so many of the smaller ones are also there. They have T-shirt vendors, Dice vendors, costume paraphernalia of all sorts, demo games that haven’t been published yet and about anything you can imagine that is involved with gaming. There are artists and novelists there as well.
  4. The games. Duh. They have games that go all night long, all weekend long. That does speak to one of the problems, though. People don’t stop to take care of their personal hygiene (Some people need to bathe.)
  5. All sorts of Cosplayers attend and they are everywhere. Some of the best in world can be seen and some do little skits. You can get your picture taken with every imaginable hero or character.
It’s close to me. I only live a little over an hour from the venue, so it makes it hard to come up with excuses not to go. I know a few of my friends are going, so that is a bonus as well. Hope to see you there!

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Dungeons & Dragons & Money, Oh My

Wednesday July 24, 2019 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | Blogging | Leave Comments

[caption id="attachment_1505" align="alignleft" width="341"]clint-bustrillos-X-A-LJVAhzk-unsplash Photo by Clint Bustrillos on Unsplash[/caption] I have always loved gaming, of pretty much any type, but when I was a kid Dungeons & Dragons was just becoming a thing. If you live in a cave and have no idea what D&D is let me briefly explain. It is fantasy tabletop role-playing game (RPG) originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. It was first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR). Which, by the way, I did not know what TSR stood for until 30 seconds ago when I googled it. The advanced version came out between ’77 and ’79, and I still have my original copy of the Dungeon Master’s Guide and the Player’s guide (1st edition.) A role playing game is basically structured make believe. You create a character and the Game Master, or in this case the Dungeon Master, is the storyteller that guides the players along a preset plot. It varies greatly by who the DM is and can be very open ended or very limited, depending on their skill level, available time, and the amount of effort they are willing to put into it. I’ve had good ones and not so good ones. TSR actually made different level dungeons that required very little prep for the DM, but the really good ones were made by the DM. When I was in college back in the early 80s, a friend of mine from California told our group about the DM he grew up playing with and the guy was prolific. My friend actually had a 105th level Magic User. They played A LOT. I can’t really even relate to that. But just know that they are out there. I can’t remember exactly when I started playing. I think it was maybe at the end of junior high, which would have been right around 1978. My group of friends weren’t really into it all that much, but I did teach a few of my track teammates how to play, and if you have been involved with track you will understand the enormous amount of downtime you have at a track meet. We played in the stands while we waited to run our event. I did find a group before I graduated that showed me what it could be, my first really good GM, who was a great storyteller and extremely imaginative. He was incredible. I also played an RPG called Traveller, which is science fiction based. I loved playing that game more than D&D, and ended up buying a lot of the supplements for that game in the decades to come, but I never found a group to play with after I left home in 1982. Sad face. Freshman year at the Air Force Academy we were not allowed a lot of freedom to get off campus, so a bunch of us that had played in high school got together and started playing D&D. We took turns making dungeons for each other, and it was my first time Dungeon Mastering. Really my first foray into writing, when I look back. After freshman year, I found other things to take up my time and I haven’t played a table top version of it since 1983. I have played video versions of it. I played a lot of the Gold Box games that came out in the late 80s and early 90s. I played both variations of Neverwinter Nights. TSR started doing GENCON in 1968. Gary Gygax, the creator of D&D started it in Geneva, Wisconsin, to be a table top gaming get together. It moved to Milwaukee when it got too big for Geneva and then moved to Indianapolis in 2003. You can find lots of people playing D&D and about any other board game you can think of. I have my 4 day pass in hand. Wizards of the Coast bought TSR in 1997, and have been making AD&D since then. It is currently on 5th edition rules. It has made a big comeback in recent years and I just heard a piece on NPR Marketplace on my way to work yesterday morning and went down the rabbit hole. People are getting paid to Dungeon Master. Upwards of $500. My two eldest children are in a group that play via Discord. It has a dice rolling app included. Here is a link to the Marketplace piece. And here is a link to a piece on Bloomberg Business Week.

“Nerd culture, Stranger Things, and the gig economy have created a world where Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts host games for $500.”
A good Game Master is worth their weight in platinum, and people are willing to pay to have a good one. They do birthday parties and business conventions for team-building activities. Or simply host new players to show them how the game works. The good ones are booked months in advance and have a waiting list. Amazing. It’s funny. I kept all my gaming accoutrements for more than thirty years, hoping that one day I would be able to pass them down to my kids. I did that, but they were much older when they finally discovered that they liked it. I ended up just passing my books over. The great thing that has happened, though, is my youngest son decided he wanted to play Star Wars the Role Playing Game. We bought a few books and he learned the rules and developed his own storyline. We play most Saturday evenings now, with most of my kids and my wife and I. He is an incredibly intuitive GM. He could probably be one of those people that make money on the side if he decided to play D&D. But in the meantime, we have a blast playing SWRPG with the family, truly fun and hilarious times. Do you have a game you enjoy? How did you get started?

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Gamer for life

Monday July 8, 2019 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | Blogging | Leave Comments

Caldari fleet - 1920x1200I have always loved playing games. Doesn’t matter the format. Board game, card game, video game, sports, like whiffle ball, golf, two-hand-touch football, basketball, all the games. From my earliest memories I have loved them all. Well, that’s not true, there are some that bored me, like Candyland. Played that a thousand times with my kids when they were little. But for the most part I have enjoyed playing games all my life. When I was a kid I would cajole my brother to play with me. He would until he lost. That was usually the last time he would play that game. He just wasn't all that interested in playing games. So, I would often lose on purpose to get him to keep playing. Pathetic right? I have bought tons of supplement books for games I never played. I still have my second addition AD&D books. I played a lot my freshman year in college. The spine is taped together. I have boxes of books for Traveller and Vampire the Masquerade. I started playing video games from the beginning, with pong. We have an Atari game console and Sega Genesis, GameCube and PS2-4. Lots of handheld games as well. Are you old enough to remember going to the Game Arcade? I spent hours and hundreds of dollars there. Then the Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG) started. We played the first one on America Online. It was an AD&D Gold Box game that they converted to allow a whopping hundred people on the server simultaneously. Then Meridian 59, Ultima Online, Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot, Everquest 2, World of Warcraft. Eve Online, and many more. I missed a few, especially now. They keep proliferating and I don’t have the time, nor the energy to devote to all of them. That’s not even talking about all the great single player games that came out, like Diablo in all of its incarnations, Earth and Beyond, Homecoming, Star Wars Outcast Jedi Knights games, all of the Star Wars games. So many good ones over the years. Some of my kid’s earliest memories are sitting on my lap while I played a video game. My youngest son was typing in cheat codes for Jedi Outcast before he could read. My eldest daughter is a guild master for Final Fantasy. My eldest son just got a degree in game design. I rubbed off on them, unfortunately for them. It continues to this day. I still enjoy playing card games and video games and even role-playing games. Currently I am regularly playing Eve Online (still, going on ten years) and Star Wars the Role-Playing Game: Edge of the Empire. I also started playing Munchkin CCG, with my sons. I actually gave up playing games while I was working on my MFA. I don’t think I played a game for three years. I am looking forward to The Outer Worlds. I will probably give that a try. I am back to dabbling with Guild Wars 2 and even a variant of City of Heroes. I try to limit my time playing games now, so I can do more productive things, like write. What are your favorites? Is there something coming out that you are looking forward to?

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Confessions of a Gaming Addict

Thursday February 23, 2012 | By Hieronymus Hawkes | Blogging | Leave Comments

Is there an addiction label for people that play MMOs?  Game-a-holic, em-em-o-holic, vidyict…someone will pen one better.
Hi.  I’m Todd and I’m addicted to playing massive multiplayer online games.   They’re great as an entertainment option.  I could justify playing a game vs. watching a show on the TV, but they don’t add any real value to life.  I look at people with hobbies that are productive and I’m jealous, but I rarely indulge in that kind of self-flagellation.   I deal with it just like a do when I have a task that has to be done that’s not particularly enjoyable – I put my head down and plow forward until it’s done.  I usually just let those fleeting feelings of guilt wash through me until they pass, then hit the power button on my computer and fire up another round of gaming.
I haven’t been posting anything on here in weeks, but my excuse was that I am working on Air War College and it’s taking all my spare time, but that simply isn’t true.  I stopped working on my novel for the same reason, the clock is ticking and I need to finish the stupid course, but I’ve made very little progress in the last few weeks.  So I’m not writing and I’m not studying all that much, but I can tell you I made it to level 50 with my Sith Warrior. 
My intentions were good.  But we all know where good intentions lead.  I gave myself a pass on writing so that I could devote more time to finishing all this reading I have to do (and it’s like 1600 pages) but what do I do?  I squander all that time, I fritter it away finding other things to do and ultimately I end up sitting back down at the computer and logging in to SWTOR again.  Last year I managed to break my gaming habit (I thought).  I didn’t refer to it as an addiction, because, you know, I could quit anytime I wanted to.  I just enjoyed it, it was better than sitting in front of the boob tube all evening.  Right?  I’ve been playing MMORPGs for more than 20 years but most of my hobbies don’t really generate anything useful, unlike someone that makes furniture in their spare time or knits or crafts stuff.   I managed to quit playing video games for almost a year.  I finished my manuscript, at least the first draft and a few revisions before this game came out, and I made a few decent chalk drawings.  But I slipped and I’m neck deep again, just like an alcoholic or a drug addict.   
The people that make these are smart.  I think humans are designed to want to achieve “stuff” even if it’s meaningless.   Milestones and marking them is often enough to keep us going even when we aren’t sure where we’re going.  “Just five more minutes, honey, I’ve almost got enough armaments to complete my daily.”  They feed the addict in all of us.  I don’t think I have a particularly addictive personality but I’ve always loved gaming in all its forms, from physical games like baseball and football and golf, to board games to RPGs, and combined with my fascination of computers from day one, has created a potent combination for my little brain. 
I know that some people devote even more of their time and energy to MMOs than I do, some people have an unhealthy problem with them.  I had a guildmate a long time ago that committed suicide when the game we were playing ended.   My problem is nothing like that, but I am at a point in my life that I am disappointed if I “waste” too much time.  The clock seems to tick a little faster every year and the day just doesn’t have enough hours in it.  Weekends fly by.  When I look back at my weekend I don’t want to see vapor.  I want to have spent it doing something of value, like maybe spending some quality time with my wife and kids or writing or drawing or making a piece of furniture. Instead I managed to get my Champion lightsaber. 
I’m going to make a pledge to cut down on gaming again, and spend that time better.  I’m probably fooling myself that I can handle it, just a little here and there, that’s how backsliding always starts, and I’ve slid all the way back.  But If I have that much time to game and not study the least I can do is work on my novel.  Oh by the way, Mass Effect 3 comes out in a few weeks …

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