This is not a post about managing lines at PAX East. It’s actually a reference to this week’s Flash Fiction challenge over on Terribleminds. Chuck has once again admonished us to write a killer opening line, which is a fantastic exercise, but not really something I can build an entire post around.
Normally I would fire up the Brainstormer to fuel a Flash Fiction post, but I’m writing this on Sunday with PAX East still in full swing. I hope everyone who came had an excellent time! I will Brainstorm some Flash for later this week, give you guys a preview of a game or two from the Expo floor (if I have time to get down there), and sleep more between now and then.
Conventions and exhibitions almost feel like another world. Within the walls of the buildings and skyways, tens of thousands of like minds gather. It is wonderful and terrifying and energizing and exhausting, all at the same time.
A lot of communities come together, especially if individuals within said communities often feel that they’re alone. Seeing so many people gathered in the same place for the same reason refutes that feeling through sheer fact of numbers. Even so, it can be overwhelming, and as much as an individual can see plainly that they are not alone, other feelings can lead to unintended isolation.
I have felt this myself, and the fact is that the more involved you become in interactions with others, the less isolated you feel. I would remind you, if you feel this way, that it’s okay to be nervous. You’re allowed to have time and space to yourself, but it may not necessarily be for the best if you stay there. Remember that everybody is there for the same reason: a celebration of common ground, shared interest, and collective excitement.
The gaming community in particular has come under fire before. There are certainly incendiary elements. There’s a reason some of the best advice a YouTuber can follow is “Don’t read the comments.” Fans of things in general, and gamers in particular, feel entitled to their opinions and are convinced of the rightness of their causes. While it’s wonderful we live in a world where we can speak and think as we like, that can occasionally lead to uncomfortable situations.
Thankfully, you have just as much right to ignore what someone says as they have to say it. Or, even better, say something that refutes what you disagree with.
As long as we’re communicating honestly and without overarching judgment, we have very little reason to remain silent. Broadly, the way we conduct ourselves be it in the comments or in person falls under Wheaton’s First Law:
Don’t be a dick.
I’m sure this will seem like common sense to a lot of folks. This is a good thing. Still, it’s much like what I’ve said about consent – the more people that know these things, the better the community will be overall. Like I said, there is little reason to remain silent. As long as you’re being positive about what you’re saying, and saying it with the intent of increasing awareness and decreasing worldsuck, by all means, speak up! You will be glad you did.
I’m not sure what else I can add. PAX East is in full swing and I am busier than ever. I’ll be outside Bumblebee Theatre in the Boston Convention & Expo Center. Becoming an Enforcer has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and has lead to some incredibly invaluable and completely unforgettable changes, both now and in the future.
But that is a story, and a post, for another time…
I’m finding more and more that the games that I truly enjoy playing with other people aren’t necessarily straight-up competitions. Oh, I still enjoy a good game of Magic, don’t get me wrong. And Blizzard’s collectible game Hearthstone scratches that particular itch while having a purchase system that makes you want to buy packs to both explore and collect, not just to “buy power” as you can in other free-to-play games. But with JayCon approaching, I figured I’d gather up the games I plan on taking which might get played, and I noticed that all of them have at least some level of cooperation.
Both Escape: The Curse of the Temple and Elder Sign are fully cooperative, with players rolling dice together to overcome the obstacles presented by the game. Elder Sign is perhaps best described (if somewhat derogatorily) as “Arkham-themed Yahtzee”. Players are investigators in an old museum whose exhibits are making it easier for some sort of horrific elder god to awaken. The investigators must gather the mystical signs and defeat monsters to prevent the end of the world. There is a ticking clock, and investigators have limited amounts of stamina and sanity. Escape, on the other hand, is a game played in real time. Instead of taking it in turns to explore the temple, battle its curses, and unearth its treasures while looking for the exit, players move and act as fast as they can roll their dice. The game comes with a soundtrack, which both provides atmosphere and audio cues as to when players must race for the safe room before losing one of their dice permanently. It’s a great, intense little burst of fun and adventure that only takes ten minutes to play, and it’s even fun to take on solo.
I’m sure some people are tired of me going on about The Resistance: Avalon and Battlestar Galactica, cooperative games with hidden threats. Player cooperation is not so much encouraged as demanded, and the fact that one or more players are intentionally deceiving the others adds an entirely new wrinkle to the gameplay. It’s entirely possible that two completely different levels of cooperation are going on simultaneously, all without direct communication, and that makes for a great time with friends who you may end up resenting because they were so good at fooling you. But perhaps the game I’m most eager to play (or play more of, I tried it out Tuesday night) is Archipelago.
I don’t have enough experience with the game to write up a full review, but the game is fantastic. It takes a series of various game mechanics – player bidding, worker placement, card drafting, and so on – and chains them together into a rotating arrangement of ever-evolving depth and complexity. From a relatively simple starting point, just a couple of turns in, the game explodes with choices and challenges. Each turn sees a problem on the islands that must be overcome through a combined effort of everyone involved… but not everyone has to participate. In addition to all of its other systems, Archipelago gives each player a personal, private objective. This could be as simple as having the most money or building the most churches, but it could also be supporting the natives in a war for independence. The fact that the players do not know what each other’s objectives are, and can interpret the actions of an obstinate player in multiple ways, lends even more depth and nuance to a game that is already keeping several plates spinning at once. I’m very curious to see how the game players with more than two players, especially if one is aggressive and ambitious, or if one is manipulative and keen to whatever fears may be sweeping the islands at any given moment.
Needless to say, I’m very much looking forward to this weekend. Be it rolling dice, dealing cards, or buying local beef to export pineapples to Europe, it’s going to be a great time at the tables.
Much like some malevolent giant peering over the wall of a nearly defenseless settlement, the dreaded Q4 is upon me at the dayjob. Expectations are high. Work is sure to come fast and furious (and without the benefits of Michelle Rodriguez or Jordana Brewster). I’m going to have to take extra steps to stay on top of things. Bills need to be paid, which means I need this employment, which means I can’t lose it.
This means I need to rearrange my schedule.
The last couple weeks I’ve been catching my breath. Picking at Cold Streets instead of tearing into it. Thinking about Godslayer more than I write about it. Blogging when I feel like it instead of on a schedule. I’ve taken a leisurely pace to things, in an attempt to get my head and heart together. It’s time to put that aside and focus on getting through the next few months intact.
I’ve been losing weight, and I plan to keep doing that. A focus on my physical imperfections and progress will help me focus, in turn, on the imperfections and progress in front of me. That’s the idea, at least. I’ll have to make sacrifices, be it less time for games, or relaxation, or friends. I’ll still make time for those things, and watching things like Agents of SHIELD or Attack on Titan, but these are rewards, not goals in and of themselves. I hope I don’t offend anybody if I disappear for hours at a time from people’s radar. While I do still need the support of friends and family – there’s no way I could have made it this far without them – there’s a large portion of what’s in front of me that I have to face alone.
Surviving to see 2014 in a prosperous and meaningful way means living up to my potential, owning my mistakes (which I am bound to make), writing the stories only I can write, doing everything I can for those around me, and never ever giving up, even if the odds seem stacked in favor of the house.
I know there’s help, and I’m grateful for it. I know there’s ground that’s been tread before, and I’m willing to learn from it. But in the end, when the reports and the edits and the demands come in, it’s all on me.
They dragged him into the office by his arms. His legs felt weak; there was no way they could support his weight with them yanking him along. He was tossed onto the carpet like a sack of garbage. He found himself looking at the skull of what some might have considered a large lizard, but he recognized as a small dragon. It had been re-purposed to serve as the base of an umbrella stand.
“We found him, Father,” said one of the twins.
“He thought to hide from you among the mortal officers of the law.” The other twin tossed the badge onto the expansive desk that blocked most of his view. He struggled to look up, fighting down waves of pain. He got a kick in the kidneys for his trouble.
“Castor, Pollux, I’m surprised at you.” The voice from behind the desk was deep, grandfatherly, almost kind; yet in it was the rumble, the muted flash, the sense one gets when a storm is blowing in. “This is my guest, not some common churl. Get him in a chair, for Gaea’s sake. And clean up his face. I won’t have him ruining my carpet.”
The twins obeyed, hauling him into one of the chairs facing the desk. A wet rag all but smashed into his face, and as the blood was wiped away, he tried to will his bleeding to stop. Whatever charm they’d used to stunt his powers, it seemed to have faded, as his head cleared immediately. He blinked, and looked up to face the man he’d been dragged to see.
Behind the chess board on the desk sat what appeared to be an elderly man with broad shoulders and the solid build of someone who’d spent a lifetime perfecting his physical form. His suit was tailored, hand-made, and clearly costly. His white hair was long, and his beard was somewhat fluffy. Had the suit been red, one might mistake him for Santa Claus.
“Now, Prometheus. What would possess you to put on the airs of a policeman? In the game of ‘Cops and Robbers’, would I not be the cop?”
“It let me get close to one of Chronos’ servants. I was trying to help…”
Pollux backhanded Prometheus. “No lies before the mighty Zeus!”
“Pollux, please! Castor, look after your brother.” Zeus reached down and plucked the bishop from his side of the board, examining it. “Prometheus, you and I have had our differences. I’m still not certain how you escaped your prison in the first place. But we both know that my word is law. And that law cannot be countermanded, not by the cleverness of any being, mortal or Titan.”
“I could be back on that mountain now, if you willed it.”
“Then why am I here?”
Zeus smiled, and replaced the chess piece. “I’m curious more than I am angry. How did you escape, and why?”
“The how doesn’t matter. The why does. I told you: I can help you fight Chronos and the other Titans. Time is against us. You should hear what I have to say.”
Zeus raised an eyebrow. Thunder rolled in the distance. “Have a care, Titan. I am not so curious that I am willing to permit you to command me. Begin at the beginning. How did you escape?”
“I made a deal with the eagle.”
Zeus laughed. “A deal? What could you possibly offer it that was not the liver of an immortal?”
“I told it about America. I told it that it was a sacred animal there. It, too, could be truly immortal, and not simply tasked with devouring me. I said, ‘If you free me, I will take you there, and you will be adored and loved.’ It took a few days… and a few livers… but it believed me.”
Promet heus tried not to blanch at the memories. Centuries, millenia had gone by, and every day, atop that lonely mountain that killed any mortal that attempted its summit, the eagle tore him open and made him feel every snapping sinew and every bite at his innards until death came like a merciful, dreamless, abyssal sleep. He’d long stopped cursing his fate each time he awoke, and it was only through the tiny fraction of power he’d had left that he was able to learn of the far-off land the eagle wished to see.
“Where is it now?”
“A zoo, in Chicago.”
“Hah! Duplicity worthy of any of my children. Even as a fugitive you do not disappoint.”
Prometheus nodded. “I am happy to have amused you, my Lord.”
Zeus waved his hand. “Pshaw. I have Wingus and Dingus here to kowtow to me. You, however, never bowed. You defied me, and not from jealousy or fear or anger. You defied me to do what you felt was right. Defiance had to be punished, but I always respected what you did.”
Prometheus blinked. The admission felt earnest, but oddly timed. It slowly dawned on Prometheus that he was right, and Zeus knew it. Chronos and the other Titans were growing stronger, and time was getting shorter. Slowly, so as not to antagonize the twins, Prometheus reached into his pocket, produced the sealed envelope, and handed it to Zeus.
“This is why I escaped.”
Zeus looked at it. On it was written a single word. Hera.
After a moment, the King of the Gods opened the envelope. He read the letter within. Twice. When he looked up at the twins, his eyes were alight with the fire of the sky, the lightning that was his herald and his wrath.
“Leave us. Prometheus and I must speak alone.”
The twins bowed and retreated. Zeus set down the letter, glared at Prometheus for a long moment, and reached across the chess board to reset it. He moved his white king’s pawn forward two squares, gesturing at Prometheus.
“Tell me how this treachery began.”
Prometheus, in spite of the pain, smiled. He moved his queen’s pawn forward.