Bad Games - PAX Prime 2013

Bad Games
PAX Prime 2013

We’ve all played “bad” games, but what truly makes a game “bad?” Is gaming beauty not in the eye of the beholder? Is one’s miserable experience not simply subjective opinion? Is there such a thing as an objectively “bad” game? More importantly, however we define the term, do bad games serve a purpose? Much as how without evil, there can be no good, without the worst of gaming, how could we possibly recognize the best?

It turns out that the problem is not in defining what makes a game “bad,” but in what makes a game a “game.” Some games are great at certain things, but terrible at others. Candyland teaches children colors and counting, but is a terrible candidate for a serious tournament. Dungeons & Dragons is great for that heroic fantasy adventure, but not so much for your future cyberpunk transhumanist court drama. Silver Surfer serves as a lesson (and a warning) to future game designers the world over.

Join us for a lively discussion of the worst of gaming, what that truly means, and what we can learn from “bad” games. You may find that some of the worst games ever made can be some of the most fun you’ve ever had.

Character Sheets and Storytelling

Character Sheets and Storytelling

From our lecture at PAX Australia 2013! A role playing game can only be evaluated solely by the contents of its rules. Your character in a role playing game exists solely on your character sheet. So, what is your character sheet telling you about your character?

Definitions of Game - Orthogame and Idiogame

Excerpted from Beyond Dungeons & Dragons at PAX AUS 2013, we take on the definition of the word "game." Following on from Garfield's "orthogame," we propose "idiogame" for another class of what all fall under the umbrella of "game." If an orthogame is " a competition between two or more players using an agreed-upon set of rules and a method of ranking," then an idiogame is roughly "a series of interesting decisions that produce a personal outcome."

Judge Anime By Its Cover

Judge Anime by its Cover
Anime Boston 2013

You wouldn't judge a book by its cover, but anime is a whole different ball game. What if we reviewed anime SOLELY by their covers? Would these reviews be accurate? If so, why? Anime, moreso than other works in other media, seem "truer" to their marketing material, and it is our hypothesis that one truly can "review" anime to a great degree soley by their covers.

Mastering Game Mechanics

Mastering Game Mechanics

Presented at PAX East 2013 on Saturday in the Tabletop Theatre, our 21st PAX panel/lecture, in "Mastering Game Mechanics" we take you through a variety of "game mechanics" and consider their use and purpose.

Despite the staggeringly vast variety of games out there in the world, they draw primarily from a core set of basic mechanics. Many games which at first seem very different share fundamental design patterns, subgames, and strategies. What is a “draft,” and more importantly, what is its true function? Where to rondels come into play? What is the purpose of an arbitrary decision? What does “skill based movement” mean for a game? Are all auctions created equally?

Whether you are a player, maker, or even simply observer of games, understanding these core components will provide a surprising degree of insight into their nature. Join us in our 21st PAX panel to explore the nature, lexicon, design, and strategy of game mechanics, drawing from videogames, board games, even role playing games and sports.

Practical Game Theory

Practical Game Theory
PAX East 2013

Presented on Saturday on the Tabletop Theatre, our 22nd PAX panel/lecture, we discuss a variety of game theory concepts and terms from the perspective of practical use as players of games. Being familiar with basic concepts like "cooperation" or "utility," coupled with an extended study of the "toy" games that actually exist as subgames within your games, you will be able to form more powerful heuristics for making good decisions.

We touch ever-so-briefly (and with a degree of oversimplification) on Combinatorial Game Theory, but ask the audience to attempt a sort of "deconstruction" of the class game Nim in order to arrive at some of the same basic principles.

MAGFest Gaming Intellectuals - Video Game Ethics

MAGFest Gaming Intellectuals
Video Game Ethics

Every year, Scott and I attend MAGFest not just to lecture, but also to sit as panelists alongside the rest of the MAGFest "Gaming Intellectuals" on various gaming topics.

Is it truly ethical to design a game to be addictive, or is "addictiveness" simply a sign of good design? Do games change us in more ways than we might realize? Is regulation on the horizon (as we have already seen arising in Japan), a good idea, or even truly possible? How are games different from other media?

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