Symposium, December 2nd – Outer Wilds

We launch once more into the void on Thursday at 8:30 EDT / 7:30 CDT / 5:30 PDT, with voice chat over Discord, to continue our exploration of space through the clockwork universe of Outer Wilds.

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Symposium, November 4, 2021: Zombies, Run!

Zombies, Run!

Zombies, Run! (2012) is an exemplar of an often-ignored genre of games named exergaming. Created by combining “exercise” with “gaming,” the portmanteau describes a classification of experiences using forms of gamification to encourage exercise and other health-related activities. In the case of Zombies, Run! (2012), the explicit activity is running. (The title includes the word run, after all.)

What sets Zombies, Run! (2012) apart from other applications used to gamify exercise is the narrative framing of the player within the role of a person who is called “Runner 5” by other characters. As the player runs, short episodic audio narratives are played matching the length of the exercise activity. In order to hear more of the overall story, the player must keep running (or, in more recent versions, use simulated running while doing other activities).

Throughout a running session, and mixed in among the audio episodes, is the player told they are acquiring different materials and items. This can be something as simple as a bra or plot-centric documents. Once the session is over, these acquired materials are then used as part of a base-building mini-game in which the materials are used to expand a base and improve the lives of the characters referenced in the ongoing audio story.

Yet, both the material acquisition and base building never quite connect to the player-character dynamic. Players can ignore the base-building and even turn off the signaling of gathering materials, if wanted. The only fixed requirement for progression is the starting of an audio episode before the next unlocks in order.

To help drive discussion, lets start with the following sets of questions:

  • How did you feel about the narrative framing of being named “Runner 5” by the game? How did you imagine the character of Runner 5? Was it you? Someone else?
  • Did you participate in the base-building? What did you accomplish? Did you feel the mini-game contributed to the overall game in a meaningful way?
  • Did you use the zombie attack functionality? What did you think of the dynamic intermixing of different audio cues? Did they help? Were they distracting?
  • Many people seek out a “runner’s high” that is achieved by or right after running or other related activities during which they lose time or are less aware of their bodies as a result of the activity. In what ways can we think of this phenomenon in the same way as Flow? And, if so, do experiences like a session of Zombies, Run! (2012) contribute to that feeling or prevent it through interruptions?

We’ll meet Thursday at 8:30 EDT / 7:30 CDT / 5:30 PDT, voice chat over Discord.

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Symposium, October 7, 2021: Bowser’s Fury

In this month’s Symposium we’ll be discussing Bowser’s Fury. Some topics I’d like to hit on:

  • This is the first Mario game to go all-in on being an open world; that both to broader trends but also has points in common with 3D Mario games starting from Super Mario 64.
  • It’s a somewhat experimental game, in a way that’s rare for AAA studios; what do we think about that?

We’ll meet Thursday at 8:30 EDT / 7:30 CDT / 5:30 PDT, voice chat over Discord.

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Symposium, 2 September 2021: The Cooperative Adventure Card Game

The Mad Titan's Shadow - Fantasy Flight Games
Cards from the upcoming expansion to Marvel Champions, The Mad Titan’s Shadow

“Cooperative Adventure Card Game” (CACG) is my term for the genre that includes the LCGs I’ve been bringing to my last few symposia. What is it, though? Clearly the genre comprises not only The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, Arkham Horror: The Card Game, and Marvel Champions: The Card Game, but also other games like Legendary: Marvel and the re-skins of Legendary, as well as several other games such as Sentinels of the Multiverse. Interestingly, the category should probably also include competitive games for which designers have provided cooperative and/or solo modes: most interestingly, Middle-earth Collectible Card Game had such a mode starting in 1996.

So how do we distinguish, and why should we distinguish, among them? Should we bring cooperative board games — especially dungeon crawlers playable in coop mode like Gloomhaven, Descent (when played via app), and very interestingly, Descent‘s transmedia-franchise re-skin, Star Wars: Imperial Assault, some of which make extensive use of cards, into the conversation?

I can think of three topics I’d like to consider off the bat, and I’ll probably think of more by Thursday.

  • How does a CACG’s elaboration of and participation in a transmedia storyworld like The Lord of the Rings distinguish it from a CACG whose narrative unfolds in a different sort of possibility space?
  • How does the mechanic of deck-identification in the LCGs , where players’s decks correspond to their characters, distinguish it from Legendary, in particular, where players recruit hero actions to build their decks? Relatedly, how do the deckbuilding aspects of the LCGs, where decks are set before the game, make them distinct from “true” deckbuilding games, where the player constructs their deck in the course of the play-performance session?
  • How do the expansion models of the LCGs and other CACGs differ among themselves and/or with other genres of game?

We’ll convene the discussion on Discord at 8:30 Eastern/5:30 Pacific, with a Twitch stream to have a look at some cards if it seems worthwhile.

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Symposium, 5 August 2021: Super Metroid

For this month’s symposium, new moderator Captain Quasar will lead our discussion on this classic. He writes:

Thank you for allowing me to lead this symposium, especially for a game I love so much.

Super Metroid is considered one of the best games ever made, establishing another smash hit in the Metroid series while also laying the groundwork (along with Symphony of The Night) for the much loved “Metroidvania” genre in later games. The most defining characteristic of the game to me is the map: a winding series of rooms, passageways, and alien terrors that, over the course of the game, the player memorizes.

  1. Does allowing the player to traverse the map themselves with minimal handholding lead to a better game experience? How does it change the meaning of the game?
  2. Is traversing the map in any way like Theseus in the Labyrinth?
  3. If you played the game, what part (if any) did you get stuck on? How did you overcome it?
  4. How does the design philosophy of NES Metroid change in Super Metroid? How does Zero Mission approach the original game, in the wake of Super Metroid?

We meet via Discord at 8:30 Eastern/5:30 Pacific on Thursday!

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Symposium, July 1st: The Crew

When someone thinks of the final frontier, I’m reasonably sure that trick-taking card games are not the first thing that come to mind. And yet, with its clever unraveling of a Legacy-style game narrative structure, the simplicities of Thomas Sing’s The Crew quickly warp into a startlingly complex navigation of implied communications and player expectations.

As such, it is only fitting that our voyage should bring us here, armed with a recent history in living card games as our guiding star through a treacherous possibility space. Please join us on Discord this Thursday at 8:30pm EDT / 5:30pm PDT as we explore the thematic implications and contentious dynamics of cooperative space flight.

Supplemental:

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Gaming Session: The Crew (June 24th, 2021)

See the source image

In preparation of our July symposium on The Crew, we’re going to come together to take an inaugural flight with the game on Board Game Arena. 8:30pm EST / 5:30pm PST, with interstellar transmissions provided by Discord voice chat.

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Symposium: Crypt of the NecroDancer, June 3, 2021

Crypt of the NecroDancer (2015)

This month, let’s examine Crypt of the NecroDancer (2015). In our pursuit of a vocabulary around what makes a roguelike game like the game Rogue (1980), let’s put Crypt of the NecroDancer (2015) up adjust traditional views of what makes a “roguelike” and how that has been challenged in the many years since the writing of the Berlin Interpretation (2013).

Discussion on Discord this Thursday at 8:30pm EDT / 5:30pm PDT!

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Symposium: Eastshade, May 6, 2021

For the May Symposium, we’re talking about Eastshade. The main topic that I want to discuss is what Eastshade has to say about genre conventions: it’s an open-world game, but one without combat, and it differs from open-world conventions in other ways as well. How well do we feel Eastshade works; what does our reaction say about the role of genre conventions?

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Symposium and Playversation, 1 April 2021: Marvel Champions: The Card Game

We’ll continue exploring the Fantasy Flight Games cooperative Living Card Game (LCG) as a rogue-like epic occasion on Thursday, with a playversation streamed on my Twitch channel, if I can get it going. Here’s a post-series (follow back from the first link) to get you thinking about how my usual bardic parallels line up. Most importantly, I’d like to see if the LCG has a whiff of cordite about it, as the smoking-gun link between bardic narrative and roguelike virtuosity.

Discussion on Discord this Thursday at 8:30pm EDT / 5:30pm PDT!

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