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.


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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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Symposium, March 4th: Crusader Kings II and III

It would be easy to take one look at the byzantine UI prompts and the arcane systems of territorial stewardship in Crusader Kings and conclude that the game was a purely abstract exercise, a grand strategy game far too grand for the soil of the human condition. When the wheels of its systems are in motion, however, they reveal a maelstrom of ambitions and desires to be carefully negotiated not just by one ruler in their time, but a lineage of power carried on through blood (familial and martial).

Can such a meticulous rendering of medieval politics even begin to mount a critique the Western orthodoxy that it rests upon? Is such a critique necessitated by the arc of the game? Perhaps our discussion on Discord this Thursday at 8:30pm EDT / 5:30pm PDT will provide a formal venue to mount a valuable interrogation, all while the careful strings of our spymasters pull its shadows into sharp relief.

Supplemental reading: Crusader Kings III is a World of Complexity That Feels Powerfully Alive by Gita Jackson (Waypoint/Vice)

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Symposium: Tetris, February 4, 2021

Tetris has been around in one form or another since 1984. In the 36 years since its first creation, it has been ported to everything from the Game Boy to the iPod. It is, at least according to the listing on Wikipedia, found on 30+ different platforms under its official license and many more beyond that in other forms.

Last month, we looked at Good Sudoku and examined what makes it “good” beyond collections of Sudoku puzzles and other tools. This month, let’s turn that same lens to Tetris. What makes a “good” Tetris game? Are the more recent Tetris Effect (2018) and Tetris 99 (2019) “good” examples? Can there be a “bad” Tetris game?

Let’s start with thinking about when we each first encountered Tetris. What platform was it on? How about more recently? Have you played Tetris in the last three years on a different platform?

8:30pm EST / 7:30pm CST / 5:30pm PST; Voice chat over Discord.

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