A Part of Your World: World Building in Video Games and Table-Top RPGs

I Search for Traps

No, this post isn’t about The Little Mermaid. Rather, I’ve been thinking about how I, as a DM, can make players feel as if their characters are part of a bigger, wider world. Oftentimes, the story’s focus on the party makes it appear that they’re the center of the universe as opposed to one small (albeit extremely important) part of it.

I remember the first time that I felt that my character was part of something bigger. It was during the first campaign I ever played, and the party was infiltrating a keep while some Lord’s army was assaulting the fortress’ outer walls. We’d chosen to teleport on its roof and work our way down. The plan worked reasonably well, but what I remember most is Gaines’ character climbing a rampart and using a makeshift flag to signal the assaulting army that we’d taken the keep and that they could…

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I Search for Traps

I’ve been contributing to this blog for over a year now. I intend to continue contributing, but I’ve also been wanting to write about other things.

Despite the fact that I write about video games a lot, most of my gaming involves rolling dice around a table. I came late to table-top RPGs, and it wasn’t until after Gaines’ Star Wars campaign that I decided that I, too, could DM. I’ve been doing it ever since.

I’ve focused on video games here in order to preserve the blog’s theme, but I’ve decided to branch out and start actively writing about table-top RPGs. As such, I’ve started a new blog, I Search for Traps, where I’ll be writing about ongoing campaigns in which I’m currently involved, my experiences with various RPG systems, and just various RPG nonsense.

Take a look and stick around if you enjoy!

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What I’m Playing Now: Elite Dangerous

I’ve made no secret in the past that I love space sims and that I’m on the lookout for the next Starflight. I’ve tried many games, but none really filled in that particular gap in my heart. Until recently.

I’ve been playing a lot of Elite: Dangerous, which is the next iteration of the venerable Elite series of space sims/traders. Until now I’d more or less passed over it in favor of other series such as Wing Commander. However, in my wait for Star Citizen to be completed, I’ve come across Elite: Dangerous.

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Pokemon-Amie: Building Friendships and Guilt

Ludogabble

 

pokemon amie

For a franchise with friendship as a central theme, Pokemon has been shockingly remiss in offering trainers ways to form bonds with their companions. Battling notwithstanding, opportunities to interact with one’s Pokemon have been virtually nonexistent across the series. The games’ plots dictate that the love and trust between player-protagonist and Pokemon are powerful. It is due to those strong bonds, the games emphasize, that the player-protagonist is so exceptional as to both become League Champion and take down the various crime syndicates threatening the world. But the growth of this love and trust between trainer and Pokemon is a gap that players must fill in on their own. It is not developed onscreen.

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Sports Games and Remediation

Brendan Keogh wrote a wonderful article for Reverse Shot on the visual workings of FIFA ’14 and it’s really cool. As someone who plays a ton of different sports games, I’m always excited to see new critical engagements with the genre. I would also suggest you look at Abe Stein’s review of this year’s Madden, which is one of my favorite game reviews that came out in the past year (and one that came at a time when compartmentalization of media was particularly important).

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Excursions on Horseback

Ludogabble

Dragon Age horse

When I was a kid, I had Barbie: Race and Ride (1999) for the PC. I despised Barbie. I wasn’t a kid who played with Barbies. But I was a kid who hoarded horse figurines, read books on horse care, studied tack magazines, and asked for a horse every birthday and Christmas. I was also a kid who couldn’t afford riding lessons, let alone an actual horse of her own. So to satisfy my wish for a horse, I had to content myself with my toys and my books and my daydreams—and occasionally a game like Barbie: Race and Ride.

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What I’m Playing Now: Heroes & Generals, and Verdun 1914-1918

Contrary to Gaines, I’m not a big competitive online FPS player. In fact, I’m quite frankly horrible at them. However, there’s a few games in the genre that I’ve lately enjoyed; the first one was Heroes & Generals, but lately it’s been Verdun 1914-1918.

Both games are still in development and still have a ways to go before seeing a final release. However, they both contain elements that makes it so that even someone as unskilled as I am at FPSs can still find both games enjoyable.

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In Search of Transformative Encounters

Over the course of the last couple of years, I’ve slowly drifted away from video games in favour of table-top RPGs. That trend probably started a few years ago when Gaines and I played TTRPGs weekly with a group of friends in Troy. However, I think my malaise is more complex than that.

I’ll freely admit that I haven’t really been greatly excited or enthralled by any video game since the Mass Effect series. Even Dragon Age: Inquisition, however good and enjoyable it was, felt shallow to me. I’m now convinced that the video game industry has forgotten that stories usually have an ending.

I think that the last game that I played that had a truly satisfactory ending was Mass Effect 2. Granted, it was setup as the middle portion of a trilogy, but it nonetheless left me with the distinct impression of closure where something had been accomplished, where a chapter had been concluded.

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What I’m Playing Now: This War of Mine

I’ve been guilty of not posting enough on the site. In the hopes of changing that, I’ll be starting a new feature called “What I’m Playing Now,” which will be exactly what it sounds to be.

Rather than long, elaborate critical pieces, “What I’m Playing Now” will be short, focused reflections about a particular game or set of games I’m currently enjoying, be they video games, board games, or tabletop RPGs.

To start it off, I’ll be talking about a short video game that I’m playing: This War of Mine.

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Playing with Heavy Rain: The Gamepad and Personal Knowledge

Immersion has long been held in popular thought as one of the defining characteristics of video games (Keogh, 2013). A good game, to many, is one where they can lose themselves within the game and its narrative. Such escapist understandings of video games often are projected by mainstream news media, for whom video games represent a departure from the ‘real’ world.

This division between real and virtual can be understood as the cornerstone by which immersion is possible. Within this particular understanding, immersion “comes from devices that isolate the senses sufficiently to make a person feel transported to another place” (Boellstorff, 2008, p. 20).

As such, this particular approach, which is popular within such disciplines as cognitive psychology and mainstream computer science, is able to create elaborate simulations of the physical world through innovative uses of information and communication technologies. Because it is predicated on a notion of the physical space as the space of reality and meaning, this approach fares poorly when it comes to understanding how virtual spaces can generate powerful semiotic relationships that go beyond the physical/virtual dichotomy.

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