Symposium, March 4th: Crusader Kings II and III

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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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Symposium: Good Sudoku, January 7, 2021

For our first Symposium of 2021, we’re going to talk about Good Sudoku. Specifically, I’m interested in talking about how Good Sudoku tackles the question of developing skills necessary to successfully navigate a game’s procedurally generated terrain, by providing affordances for just in time learning and by explicitly modeling the player’s puzzle solving processes.

The usual time and place: 8:30pm EST / 7:30pm CST / 5:30pm PST, voice chat over Discord.

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Gaming Session: Farewell to Minecraft, December 31, 2020

We’ve been building on our current Minecraft server pretty much monthly since December 2010; it’s been a good decade, but our energy levels are flagging a bit, so we’ve decided to declare victory. The saved data isn’t going anywhere, so we’ll have the option to continue later if we want, but for now, this will be the last of our regular monthly sessions.

It’ll be at the usual time: December 31, 8:30pm EST / 5:30pm PST, voice chat over discord.

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Symposium playversation: Arkham Horror: The Card Game, part 2, 1 December 2020

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In my first foray into playversing about AHLCG, I think I managed to make clear how the basic mechanics of the LCG genre provide a fascinating platform for blended linear and emergent storytelling. Above all, the confrontation of player deck with encounter deck and chaos bag seemed to prove a source of interest, especially with respect to the ancient epic tradition that’s always my touchstone.

This time, I’ll play the second scenario of the core set, The Midnight Masks, solo on OCTGN over Twitch. I’ll discuss how the individual mechanics of the scenario interact with the core mechanics of the game, and I’ll attempt a comparison with the epic mechanics of different episodes (oimai, in the homeric bards own terminology) of Iliad and Odyssey.

Conversation on Discord, game-streaming via OCTGN on twitch.tv/8mph1. 8:30 EDT, 7:30 CDT, 5:30 PDT.

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Gaming Session: Minecraft, November 19, 2020

Because of Thanksgiving, we’re moving Minecraft up a week, so we’ll do it this Thursday. Usual time: 8:30 EST / 7:30 CST / 5:30 PST.

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Symposium, November 5th: Hades

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When we first talked about the possibility of discussing Hades for a symposium, I figured we would be talking about the game’s success as a roguelike, but I did not anticipate how appropriate it would be to discuss it as an exemplar for episodic storytelling. There are numerous touchstones and influences throughout Hades, but the cues that it takes from the cross-run narratives of Shiren the Wanderer and the social links of Persona are instrumental in setting this game apart in an era of procedural generation.

If the gods are willing, we will find Elysium in our discussion on Discord this Thursday at 8:30pm EDT / 5:30pm PDT. Of course, should we fail, we can always try (and try (and try)) again!

Supplemental Material:

Black Athena: How Hades Got Its Gods Right (Kotaku) by Ash Parrish
How Hades Makes The Case For Failure (Paste) by Holly Green
Hades Gets The Queer Love Story Right With Achilles and Patroclus (PCGamesN) by Jeremy Signor

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Gaming Session: Minecraft, October 29, 2020

Minecraft this week! Thursday at 8:30 EDT / 7:30 CDT / 5:30 PDT.

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Symposium: Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition, Oct 1, 2020

We’re talking about Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition (2012) this month. Although originally released in 1998, the Enhanced Edition is now the main entry-point to the game and its series for current audiences.

Let’s talk about its success — and failures — in trying to capture tabletop RPG mechanics, its location-based narrative structure, and its major influence on user interface design. Let’s compare how it, and Fallout (1997), have defined how role-playing games should look and feel like, examining how echoes of its design can be seen in everything from Pillars of Eternity (2015) to The Outer Worlds (2019).

Thursday at 8:30 EDT / 7:30 CDT / 5:30 PDT.

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Gaming Session: Minecraft, September 24, 2020

Minecraft on Thursday! 8:30pm EDT / 7:30pm CDT / 5:30pm PDT.

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