Tags: gaming


(no subject)

"The Quintessential Temptress is, of course, a slight exception being, as it is, after all, a bit of a piss-take. There is, however, a great deal of genuinely useful information contained within this book in spite of the humour and mirth, things that can be used practically. Some people lacking in the essential brain cells required to tell humour from seriousness, or who excuse their lack of understanding of the joke by accusing humour of perpetuating stereotype and persecution may find something within this book to offend them. Jolly good; enjoy being upset, you know you do. The rest of us will get on with having a jolly good – not to mention harmless – chuckle."

I wrote that back in 2004 but in spite of any number of disclaimers and to above, Cassanda-ish prediction, I'm still getting shit over it. As well as Nymphology: Blue Magic, Hentacle, etc etc.

This is all courtesy of the internet troll and drama-llama Kynn (Dazedsaveends on Twitter). Of course, since they're a transgender who chooses to call themselves a woman, you can't say anything against them without being simultaneously a misogynist and a transphobic. If only I were a member of a minority so I had something to insult people with they point out that I'm full of crap. Of course, I'd also have to be the kind of gutless fuckwit who can't support an argument and has to resort to ad hominem to plaster that gap too, but, you know, baby steps.
The irony, again, for those who missed it last time around, is this. The books that this person keeps banging on about are saying the opposite of what they think that they are.
Nymphology, Quintessential Temptress etc, these were taking the mick out of existing stereotypes of women in fantasy, games and RPGs. While also slipping some usable material in under the radar. As I recall the original pitch (when asked) was for something more serious but you do what you're paid to do and more comedy was asked for. You can call me a sell out if you like but it's hard enough to make it in this industry and scrape a living without handicapping yourself. I did what was asked, made fun of misogynistic attitudes in gaming and got some serious stuff in anyway.
Hentacle is, again, satirical, making fun of both hentai and western attitudes towards it.
I'm sorry if that's too complicated and nuanced for some people.
Here's a case in point, is this sexist, or making fun of sexists? You tell me...
And for the record, I am not homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic or whatever else you choose to accuse me of. I do, however, hate liars and twats and people who spread hate and misinformation. Indeed I'm usually the one that calls others on their 'isms'. 


The Perfect Game

If you could make your dream computer game/RPG/board game, what would it be? Describe it. Reality is no barrier.

An MMO based around colonisation of a new planet with the following features:
  • A community that wasn't dominated by dickheads.
  • Where you could have a genuine impact on the world.
  • Where almost everything was crafted.
  • Where the world was dynamic and responsive to player's actions/despoilment.
  • That had GM led/operated events.
  • Based on a standard, but perhaps lower than normal, subscription option.
  • That wasn't a WoW clone.
  • That had no pretensions about outdoing WoW and was targetted at its own niche.
  • No classes/levels.
You would arrive on this new planet with some basic items and exchange credits and you could take off in any direction and do anything you wanted. Almost like a bigger, slower, more complex 'Minecraft' in a way.
just me

Slayer's Guide to Female Gamers

Hopefully Matt won't mind me dredging up his evidential post from RPGnet in 2002. Funny to see GMS was being a bit of a dick back then too. The more things chance, the more they stay the same... you can find the thread on Google with a search for the book title and 'review' but you'll have to view it 'cached'. Set the Wayback Machine to 2002:

Anybody else get the feeling that this is going to be a contender for longest thread on this forum :)

A few interesting points about the Slayer's Guide to Female Gamers to consider;

1. At both Gen Con UK and US it was our best selling book by far, even eclipsing Slaine at the former. We sold out at both conventions.
2. I estimate around 75% of all books were bought by females.
3. To date, I have had one, just one complaint from someone who has actually _read_ the Slayer's Guide to Female Gamers. Support for it has been pretty incredible, mostly from the female audience. I ain't making that up :)
4. This book has proved quite controversial - but only among those who have _not_ read it.
5. There is a clear warning label on the back cover. Basically, it warns that this is a gender parody.

Those who have raised pro- and anti-feminist arguments against this book are reading _way_ too much into things. It is a joke. A Michael take. A bit of fun. You personally may not find it funny at all - that is your perfect right. However, it is not the work of Satan, it does not target women, nor does it belittle them.

I am quite prepared to listen to anyone who wishes to criticise this book - but only _after_ they have read it.

A small bit of history. When this book was first announced, several people on industry-only forums (the ones most of you guys don't get to see but where, apparently, publishers are supposed to bait one another) went completely over the top, claiming it was heralding the end of RPGs as a mass market medium, that female gamers would be turned away in droves and all sorts of other nonsense. One publisher even advised retailers that they should not stock this book, nor its twin, SG Rules Lawyers. Think about that for a moment - one publisher was actively going around telling people not to buy another publisher's book. If my mortgage did not depend on our books, that would have been really funny. . .

In short, I have heard enough rubbish about this book. We have had one complaint from someone who has actually read it which, considering sales, is rather good going. Slag this book off all you want - but please read it first. You don't even have to buy it. Just read it.

As for Gareth - you really need to take your head out of your rear end, mate. Please understand that your opinions do not impress me that much and I am getting rather tired of your attitude towards us across the industry forums. To bring your beef with us here beggars belief. If you have any salient points to raise, please contact me in private and I will do my level best to answer them.

Now that is over, many thanks to everyone who has supported us over the past 18 months or so. It is _very_ much appreciated and we are working hard not to let you down with future releases. Oh, and check out Slaine when you get a chance. No, it is not as funny as Female Gamers. But it has a lot more axes, Warp Spasms, witches and druidic rites (funny that this sort of subject material doesn't get anyone excited any more. . .).

Have fun gaming!

Matthew Sprange
Mongoose Publishing

Of all the book signings I've ever done, I think I signed more copies of this SG than anything else I've done, primarily for women, even more than The Munchkin's Guide to Powergaming. Anyone who even passingly knows me knows that I'm not sexist and frankly, I shouldn't have to defend myself against illiterate liars like this but, as a writer, it can't help but bother me when people get entirely the wrong end of the stick.

This is why I stopped going to RPGnet, too many kooks.

Abuse? I came here for an argument

I enjoy arguing with people, it's fun, it's challenging, it's good practice. It's like mental exercise. Other people don't seem to view it the same way though and I have little tolerance for cheap shots or poor arguments.

Lately - as you may have noticed from my work blog - the topic of sexism and gaming has come up again in its two tired, boring, usual ways. That is art and the use of the female pronoun. That's why I did my blog about 'tits' the other day on the work blog and why I spent a lot of the afternoon arguing about the pronoun thing... again.

As per usual when we get onto this one, people are extremely resilient to reality or facts, or - even - to what you're actually saying. Far preferring to squeeze you into stereotype 'a', 'b' or 'c' or to take offence at something you're not even saying.

What I object to in the art argument is that we're talking about fantasy. I want to be inclusive and have all sorts of depictions of male and female forms in games, INCLUDING cheesecake but it seems like those who do object the most strenuously are determined that any such depiction must be stopped. Which is immensely disrespectful to other people's wants and desires from their games. There's room for plurality.

What makes it particularly aggravating, to me at least, is that RPGs already go to ridiculous and comedic lengths to be accommodating, even to concerns that aren't even factual. I've gone on about this before, the language mangling of reinterpreting 'he' to be an exclusive rather than an inclusive term.

What particularly got my goat this time, however, was someone claiming to be a linguist (yeah, well, it's the internet) who didn't know much of anything, or so it seemed, about the history of the English language, or the way it's developing, despite claiming to study just that. That's the kind of thing that pisses me off, pseudo-intellectuals making claims that they can't back up. I would have been fine with that except that they ended up being dickish and ended up accusing me of sexism... which was entirely counter to the point I was making... and trying to defend using sexist terminology as a counter.

I used to think this was mostly an American disease but this was a Canuck and not so long ago a fellow Brit developed similar hypersensitivity as well. Yes, I've considered that it might be me being a dick, I'm the common denominator after all, but given the number of people that don't react that way and ARE capable of sensible argument, I don't think that's it after all.

There's a dangerous aspect to the internet - that I've touched on before - where you end up creating insular groups of personal 'yes men', that never challenge your held viewpoints. This is part of the reason I seek out argument and different points of view, to stop myself falling into that trap.

I never feel good about ignoring people but had to do it with this guy, simply because it seemed that neither of us would back down.

I can only repeat 'you're wrong' so many times in so many different ways before it gets tiresome and, you know, excuse me, but if you're going to change MY mind you're going to need logic, reason and evidence, not bald, falsifiable assertion.

(no subject)

As participation in 'Everybody Draw Mohammed' day (tomorrow, May 20th), in celebration of free speech in defiance of religious censorship I've done what I do and have dashed off a very slapdash and amateurish - and horribly blasphemous - card game.

You can download it HERE, ready for tomorrow.
Alternative download HERE.

Originally posted over on business/work blog apresvie 

Balls and Chains (Mostly balls)

One of the greatest teachers I ever had was Mr Kettle, he was an English teacher of fierce determination who managed, through sheer force of enthusiasm and his classroom antics, to engage even the brutish dunces with the joy of the English language. He used to let us play RPGs in his classroom at lunchtime and acknowledged that they were great for our English skills - amongst others.

Mr Kettle died of an aneurism a few years after I left school, just as the internet was starting to come into its own and sometimes I wonder if I'm headed for the same fate when I read the latest bout of nerd-rage, especially when it comes to gaming nerd-rage and particularly when it comes to some of the idiocy around the English language and gamer insecurity around women.

This latest argument - and its spin-offs - is one such aneurism-inducing event.

This one's about GenCon's non-gamer havens, or Spousal Activities (SPA) which is a nice idea to give non-gamers who have been dragged along to the conventions by their better half, something to do while their significant other is killing things and taking their stuff and having multiple nerdgasms.

So far so good, right? Providing a useful service, helping the convention-goers maintain marital harmony and broadening the appeal and inclusiveness of the con. But wait, what's the icon that they use to advertise SPA in the guidebook?:

Oh, a ball and chain, a traditional term for the other half of a relationship and thematically appropriate for a hobby that invokes dungeons a lot. So where's the problem? Oh... apparently it's sexist? It's a horrible thing to do? It insults and marginalises women and makes the hobby look more male-oriented and discriminatory than it is?

Unfortunately, in comments HERE

It emerged that this programme and its icon has been used for some 5 years, without incident, was chosen by women for an event primarily run by women and the SPA events are for anyone and include both gamer widows and gamer widowers. So why such a fuss? Why is gender such a massive issue for gamers? It's not like this nerd-rage over nothing is the first incident and this brings me back to my English teacher.

You may or may not have noticed but a lot of gaming books deal very clumsily indeed with pronouns. You'll find books that only refer to 'she'. You'll find books that alternate between 'he' and 'she' and you'll find other sorts of peculiarities that I'm unaware of having any real purchase in publications beyond the more extreme end of feminist literature (examples such as hirstory for history and other ridiculousness).

Now, I'm not attacking political correctness, the intent there is good, but the idea of deliberately changing language in order to promote a particular agenda is rather Orwellian rather than PC. That's not political correctness - seeking to minimise offence -that's attempting to control.

The irony is particularly thick when it comes to the linguistic issue and I've banged on about this before. Defaulting to 'he' does not indicate a presumption of maleness on the part of the person being described, 'he', like the term 'mankind' refers to humanity as a whole, regardless of gender. This is because we've actually LOST the particular terms that referred to males. 'Man' - for example - used to be prefixed by 'wer' or 'wyf' to indicate gender. When you use the term 'he', unqualified by context, you're being linguistically inclusive compared to when you use the term 'she' when you are, specifically, referring to female. Then you're being exclusionary.

1. 'A first time author can expect to have his manuscript repeatedly rejected.'
2. 'A first time author can expect to have her manuscript repeatedly rejected.'
3. 'As a first time author, Alex found that his manuscript was repeatedly rejected.'

In number 1 there's no hint as to the gender being talked about, it's speaking generally.
In number 2 it's specifically talking about a woman.
In number 3, despite the gender neutral name, we can gather from context and phrasing that it's talking about a specific man. Changing he to she would swap this around.

So, why do we do this to ourselves? Is the sight of a 'she' improperly placed throughout an RPG book suddenly going to make a neophyte gamer out of Jane Doe? Is it fuck, it's linguistically incorrect and, frankly, patronising I even find it a little sinister, which I'll go into in a minute. This kind of linguistic mangling is our equivalent of the pink Nintendo DS.
Why is gaming so neurotic and insecure about women? Face it, huge parts of the hobby are not and never will be appealing to women. It is a classically obsessional, largely male-appealing blend of adolescent power fantasy, fun with maths and borderline aspergers. You're not going to turn the appeal of the game around by fucking up the language in some misguided and erroneous attempt to be inclusive. If you're genuinely serious about reaching out to female gamers you need to pull a game-changer like the Wii or the DS (minus the patronising pink). There's plenty in RPGs that can appeal to women and has in the past. White Wolf pulled it off with V:tm and their LARP organisation, but the heyday of that is behind us. If you want to appeal to women more play to those strengths, the storylines, the romance, the characterisation, the whimsy. Yes these are stereotypes but they do exist for a reason and if past experience is anything to go by, it's what works.

What this makes me think of is a sort of hive-mind gamer version of the rather creepy geek dating fallacies, I can't find the exact link I'm thinking of, but THIS is close.

Yes, we want more women to be into gaming partly because we think gaming is awesome but, let's be honest here, a lot more of it is in wanting to increase the dating pool for dysfunctional nerds. If only we can get more women gaming they'll UNDERSTAND and then they might let me touch their boobies! All this linguistic abuse and special treatment isn't treating women equally or appealing to them, it's being patronising and stupid and it's as creepy as being the 'nice guy', lingering around being a 'good friend' in the hopes that you'll eventually get into a girl's pants.

In getting involved in some of these arguments the accusations have come thick and fast that, in defending proper English or pointing out the fallacies in these arguments, that you're somehow coming from a position of 'privilege' as though that somehow invalidates a truthful argument or a fact even if it were true.

I had a similar spat over a tweet I made to promote Boobquake (no such outrage about that) because I INCLUDED post-op transexuals 'Girls, ladies, women, post-op transexuals, lend me your boobs!'. Somehow, I'm not entirely sure how, someone took that as being exclusionary and insisted that post-op transsexuals ARE women. Sorry, but no, you might be legally women and you deserve to be treated as such, but the tweet was inclusive, by including them and no matter how much plastic surgery and hormone therapy you get, your chromosomes - the things which actually determine gender - aren't going to change. You're genetically male. Facts are SO inconvenient...

It seems people everywhere are looking for reasons to get upset and insulted and are getting thinner and thinner skinned, which is quite peculiar given the rough-and-tumble of the internet.

So, let's wrap up...
  1. If you think 'he' is excluding people, you don't understand the English language. If you must pick something neutral it's not going to be crowbarring 'she' in there. The consensus appears to be that the plural is the gender neutral way to go about writing, so you use 'they' instead of either.
  2. Just because you're offended, particularly by something genuinely innocuous, doesn't mean that everyone else is, or that they should be. You might only be offended because you're ignorant or hypersensitive. Getting offended on other, imaginary, people's behalf is also a bit strange.
  3. The ball and chain thing is meaningless and it's pure White Knight Syndrome to go charging in half-cocked on this. 'Look at me! See how sensitive, caring and progressive I am! Please fuck me!'. That it's run, approved and chosen by women blows away your argument. Ironically a little investigation has turned up that 'Ball and chain' these days can be used for either partner. It's lighthearted joshing and secure people with a sense of humour can deal with that.
  4. Just because you're offended doesn't mean other people are and doesn't mean something is offensive. A TV programme can attracts millions of viewers but 10 complaints is often enough to get it apologised for and withdrawn. I'm sure we can all agree that this is ridiculous and this is NO DIFFERENT.
  5. You're not going to get more 'chicks in gaming' by being creepy or treating women as some special, strange, alien creature that must be appeased with symbolic, self-deriding changes.

Stingy whingey

Tabletop gamers seem to be a curious breed when it comes to selling by unconventional means. You can sell gamers something directly and by and large we're ahead of the curve technology wise, especially when it comes to the adoption of electronic publishing, try something a little more unconventional though and things break down.
  • Donationware doesn't seem to work, you release something for free and ask for donations or hook up a 'donate' button and pretty much nobody ever does. They'll happily take what you offer, but you'll be lucky to see even a single return, even on thousands and thousands of 'sales'.
  • Shareware doesn't seem to be a model that can work particularly well, but the closest example is probably the practice of offering preview/quickstart sets cheap or free to get people's attention. I can't say that's made a noticable difference in the couple of cases I've done anything along those lines but White Wolf did it a bit more and for several games, so you'd have to ask them if it really worked.
  • Freemium model seems to be one that could work, giving away the base game for free and then charging for extensions, but in gaming you only really NEED the main book and can make up the rest yourself. In MMORPGs etc it works because you need the item/expansion to keep playing and to be competetive. I'd be interested to see how Eclipse Phase is doing.
  • Subscription ideas were something I bandied around a few years back but nobody really took seriously. DDI appears to be working, sort of, though I only think I know one gamer who actually has one. Dungeonaday seems to be rattling on but is the potential subscription base big enough to support one site along these lines or any more? I'm not sure that it does.
  • Hostageware does seem to work, to an extent, there's been a few releases put out on that basis and I met my target in terms of social media dissemination. It might be worth trying on a monetary basis some time, but I think you really need to be a 'name' in order to get enough enthusiasm for your product.
We need to innovate, find new and effective ways of supporting gaming 'auteurs' and small companies and the other way around finding ways to provide useful services to gamers and effective ways of providing value for money, but unless we can overcome some of these payment difficulties and people's seeming conservatism when it comes to alternative finance models, we're kinda stuck.


I didn't get the job at Mongoose that I applied for, which I told a very few of you about. While the urgency of the need for steady employment is no longer there I did, really, want this job this time and not getting it has come as something of a disappointment. Which is stupid, since I knew there were all sorts of people going for it and that my chances were slim despite my obvious brilliance and superiority.

I think my writing has come on leaps and bounds over the last couple of years, I get a good amount of freelance work and my own products do pretty well, all things considered. I get complimented on my writing style at conventions, which is nice, but it's still hard to tell how well you're really doing without some sort of feedback. Unfortunately in this business when you're self publishing you're hard pressed to edit your own work - which is what budgets typically limit you to - and when you are edited by someone vaguely professional you don't get any feedback, so you can't improve. Added to that there's some of the issues I've talked about in other posts where different companies have different peculiar requirements when it comes to terminology, spelling, punctuation and so on and when you've been working for one company - or to your own preferences for a long enough time - it's very hard to switch gears from one set of rules to the other.

I guess it's a confidence knock when I'd been feeling I was doing so well recently, like I was on top of my game, but the rejection had its share of praise in it as well and some advice so I can improve a bit next time an opportunity comes up. You never know, maybe someone else will give me a shot - not that there's many RPG companies out there!


Tell me I'm pretty?
just me

All Boob, no Nipple

Played a marathon session of Dragon Age: Origins today. I'm having fun playing it but it's not quite doing it for me. It's hard to pinpoint what it is that'sstopping it being a wonderful experience for me. Elements are really good but I think what it is, is a slight sense of disappointment that it's going 'so far' but no further. It makes an effort to change fantasy stereotypes, to play with your expectations but it doesn't push that extra mile to really make it work.

The experience is rather reminiscent of ready D&D3.0 for the first time. Amazing happiness at the extent of the changes and modernisations, tempered by disappointment that they didn't go that extra mile and slay a few more sacred cows. There's a touch of hypocrisy there I guess, I write enough fantasy game material playing up to the usual stereotypes but still, I'm SO tired of them and like to confound expectations. Dragon Age could have gone a bit further.

The Elves are a downtrodden and mortal people, but half of them are still wild forest dwellers and the city elves don't quite manage to have a culture all their own. The dwarves are all but extinct, but they're still doughty warriors who live underground. There's nobles and peasants and all the usual pseudo-medieval gubbins. There's religion which is obviously meant to be a somewhat critical take on Christianity, but they keep just shy of really pushing it.

Given that I got to the 'sex scene' (Morrigan, obviously, that insipid 'French' girl and the bisexual leather fetishist just weren't doing it for me) the whole thing can be summed up neatly in relation to that.

Dragon Age is boobs, but no nipples.

I like boobs, don't get me wrong, but one can only take so much teasing and disappointment.

The Dragon fight was good mind you, but again, while difficult, didn't quite pay off dramatically enough.