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Tag Archives: Board Games

Top Ten Favorite Board Games

Board Games have always been a huge part of my life. Snowed in winters left little option for my family other than games to keep everyone entertained when I was growing up. Big family gatherings also always resulted in marathon gaming and even some rage quitting. Here, in no real order, are some of my favorite Board Games for all ages.

10. Clue

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Clue has always been a go to game for me. It all starts with a murder. Every player picks a character to play. Every character is a suspect. Cards are sorted by room, weapon and character. One of each is put in an envelope to indicate who done it, where and with what. Players roll the dice to move from room to room. Once in a room players may hazard a guess to be proven or disproven by the other players cards until someone has a final guess. They must then move toward the center, say their guess and check to see if they are correct. The game has gotten a bit of a revamp, including a new character and is still wonderfully fun. There is also a hysterical movie based on the game.  

9. Eldritch Horror

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Evil is stirring. The Ancient Ones are rising. Only you and your cohorts can close the gates to stop them. Careful though, failure can lead to madness or worse. Eldritch Horror is a great cooperative game to play with friends or family.

8. Cranium

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Cranium was a favorite of my friends and I in college. It has something for everyone with different categories in which to shine. Complete the task before the time runs out and you will have game night glory. Fail, and well, everyone looks like a fool when they play so just have fun.

7. Sorry

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I played a lot of SORRY! growing up. It is a fantastic game that is fairly simple to play. Everyone picks a color for their tokens. Players then use the plastic dome to pop dice. You move that number of squares. Depending on what you land on determine if further action will be taken. Be careful though as other players can bump you back to start while gleefully exclaiming; “SORRY!” This game may end up on lists of games that certain friends cannot play together.

6. Life

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I wish that real life was as easy to navigate as this game. LIFE  is a game meant to represent, well, life. Players get to choose whether to start with a career or go to college and then move their cars throughout the board from there.

5. Operation

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The buzzing sound from Operation still sends me into a rage to this day. In this game you are the doctor. You must remove the things that are ailing Cavity Sam with tiny tweezers. One wrong move and you get the buzzer and it will be someone else’s turn. The player who has removed the most ailments wins.

4. Tokaido

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Who doesn’t love to go on a road trip? In Tokaido you are playing to see just who travels best. Who gets the most points for food, sightseeing, shopping and charity. Each playable character has different perks to help you have the best vacation ever! The art on this game is also beautiful as an added bonus.

3. Pictopia

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I just bought this as a gift for my Goddaughter and the whole family loved playing it. Everyone chooses a color and then rolls dice to progress throughout the board. Squares let the rest of the players know what kind of question they will have. Some are cooperative. Some are solo. The questions have a mixture of classic and newer Disney characters. The Disney version of Pictopia s bound to be a crowd pleaser.

2. Candyland

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I don’t care how old you are, Candyland is awesome. It is a simple game based more on colors and picking cards for player advancement. It is bright and fun. Oh and yes, you can fall on squares that send you back on the board so don’t let the happy looking landscape fool you.

1. 13 Dead End Drive

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13 Dead End Drive is full of traps. Plays have to bluff their way out of the mansion in time to win. The board is a 3D house that the plays can use to their advantage. It is a great game with a new sequel game 1313 Dead End Drive!  

I hope you have found some fun new games to play, or remembered a favorite from your childhood. Either way go play a board game and always keep sparkling!

 

Bears Vs Babies: A game review

20170627_171516 On July 4th, while many Americans celebrated with Fireworks and cookouts, my friends and I sat down to play Bears Vs Babies. As fans of the creators, we had been waiting to play it since the game had been announced. We were not disappointed.

Bears Vs Babies is honestly just a very entertaining game. It is also fairly easy once the players get started. There is a mat, and cards that are shuffled together. Some are babies who have different slots on the mat. There are some cards to give the players different actions. The other cards are pieces to help the player make a totally awesome monster!

The game encourages players to first go through a practice round, which is always helpful, depending on the experience level of the players. After they are comfortable, then it is time to get down to business and make some monsters. Players are given a number of cards. All babies are discarded face down on their appropriate color slots. Monsters are put together during each player’s turn.  

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The tricky part is that the cards have to line up with the stitches so it may take a few turns before a monster can be properly assembled. There are points on the cards which let you know how powerful each card is, so the more cards the more powerful your monster. All of the cards with the heads have a color that correlates with a baby pile, or they have a rainbow meaning they could fight any group. The goal of the players is to defeat the evil baby armies. If the player can, then they get the points. Some cards in the deck enable other players to trigger a fight between a player of their choice and the baby armies so it is a good idea to pay attention to what your friends are building.

Bears Vs Babies is brought to us by the brilliant minds of Elan Lee and Matthew Inman. Yes, the creators of Exploding Kittens. Bears Vs Babies has all of the humor of Exploding Kittens. It felt quick to play between trying to make my monster and strategizing against my friends. The art on the cards is well done. The monsters are funny and sometimes even fancy. In short, it was a great game that I cannot wait to play again.

I would rate Bears Vs Babies: Must play.

Always keep sparkling!

Top 10 Favorite Table Games

I love RPGs, gathering around a table and getting lost in fantasy with my friends. Sometimes though I just want a beer and pretzels type of game. Deal out the cards, lay out the tiles, and have fun. In no particular order (because I’m lazy) here are my favorite tabletop games:

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Munchkin – This card game is a simplified dungeon crawl with a stack of doors, and a stack of loot. Each person starts out as a 1st level human with no class, and that’s just the first joke of the game. The weapons are all tongue in cheek, the artwork comical, and the gameplay is fast and funny. The basic game is fantasy based, but there are any number of official sets for whatever your fandom might be. The best news is they can all work together making for some strange combinations.

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Betrayal at House on the Hill – Betrayal was the first random map game I ever really got into. You and your friends play a group of (fools) entering a haunted house. The map is laid out randomly from the foyer as you explore and find omens that will eventually reveal that one of you is a traitor. Or not. The main game has 50 possible reveals, and they’ve recently released an expansion for it, Widow’s Walk.

Abduction – Now this random map game is a simple deck of cards with cardboard cutout minis. You have been abducted by aliens and have to be the first one to escape. The layout of the ship can be chaotic, and with certain cards played, it can actually change at the last second snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory. I call dibs on the cow mini.

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Zombies!!! – I thought zombies were cool before they were cool, so when I saw this board game where you and your friends all played survivors trying to escape a town overrun with zombies. I was in. Starting with the center of town you deal out random tiles trying to find the helicopter pad and escape, or be the first to rack up a zombie kill count of 25. The game comes with 100 rubber zombies, so I also found it useful for the survival horror RPG I was running. There are several add-ons to date (8 I think) that make the map more complex adding a shopping mall, a military base, a college campus, a prison etc.

Zombies!!! 4 – The 3rd expansion for this game can really be called a stand-alone. Whereas the first game takes place in a city , this setting is a haunted forest accessible by a bridge out of the main city. The point here is to collect the pages of the Necronomicon and perform the ritual. This version also comes with 100 rubber zombie dogs to “hound” you throughout the forest.

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Red Dragon Inn – Dungeon crawls are fun, but what happens after the quest when the party is loaded down with gold? They drink and gamble it away. This game, with its four stand-alones and several individual add-ons has you choosing a character and using their personal deck to out drink their fellows, or win all their gold. If you pass out or go broke, you’re out of the game. Each character has their own strength and weaknesses. If you choose to imbibe some adult beverages of your own, drink responsibly.

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Epic PvP: Fantasy – This is a one on one deck battling game. Your race is chosen at random, as is your class making for some interesting combos. They’ve also come out with a companion game Epic PVP: Magic that can be combined with the original or played separately. My only wish is that it was designed for more than 2 players.

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Cards Against Humanity – How bad are your friends? How badly do you want to know? Play this game once and you’ll find out. The only drawback I found was after multiple games you start to get shocked less by the combos. Buying more cards, or finding new players is a must to extend the replay ability of this one.

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Chrononauts – Time travel is cool. A series or cards are laid out depicting the timeline of our natural history with alternate versions of key events on the reverse of the cards. Each player is given a secret goal that must achieve in order to win the game. By traveling up and down the timeline and playing cards to switch events they can create the future they know in order to win the game.

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Flux – You win by playing cards to empty your hand, but every card you play changes the rules. I’ve seen versions for just about every fandom (Chtulu, Monty Python, Batman as examples). It’s a funny game that’s easy to pick up and play.

Kathleen Mercury – Game Design with the Future in Mind

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Whats more exciting and inspiring than a woman game designer? A woman game designer thats also teaching a whole new generation how to make games. I sat down last month with Saint Louis’s Kathleen Mercury to talk about game design in the classroom and inspiring kids to create and play.

What inspired you to teach game design?

I got into gaming after going to a gifted education conference, actually.   It was about games you could have gifted kids play in the classroom, like stratego, and so afterwards I started looking into boardgames and found out about this whole other world that I had been oblivious to.

After playing a lot of games on my own I realized how great these would be for students to make in the classroom because it’s the Robert Sternberg trifecta of creative, analytical, and productive intelligence.

My big thing is that I want students to be creators not just consumers. I love that with game design, there is actually relatively little content they have to learn and the vast majority of the difficult work is struggling through the process.

All students, not just gifted kids, need to work with difficult problems that they create and that they have to design the solutions for. And then test, analyze the feedback at their given, and respond to the feedback by making changes that others have suggested. This is very difficult for adults, and in a lot of ways my students are better at doing this in seventh grade. They get feedback all the time from teachers so this way they learn how to work with giving a d getting feedback as part of an ongoing process.

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Do you feel like the tabletop community is positive towards female designers?

I’ve only had positive experiences as a female game designer, so I’m glad that I can say that because I know others have not always reported the same. I think whenever women are entering a male dominated job or hobby like gaming, we will stand out. We just will. And I think especially in gaming, it takes a while for people understand that I’m not just there because I’m the girlfriend of a gamer, I’m a gamer in my own right and a designer as well.

For myself, I was a gamer and got involved in the gaming community before I really started to present my games. And even in the beginning, I was pretty limited in what I did. I did not contact publishers to set up meetings for game conventions, which is probably the most common way of getting a game published, but I did sign up for the BGGcon speed dating event for one of my games.  (That game is actually in the process of being developed which is super exciting. Several years later after the event, but nevertheless it looks like it’s going to get made). Going to game conventions like BGGcon, Origins, and of course my local favorite Geekway to the West here in St. Louis, is what aspiring designers need to do. You’ll get to play a lot a prototypes, meet designers, and meet publishers. I’ve only ever had a blast going to game conventions and meeting people and I think that’s when the reasons why I can say I’ve never had any negative experiences. And I found that a lot of the gamers, designers, and publishers that I’ve met have been incredibly supportive when I’ve had games that I want to play test would have them take a look at.

What do you think gaming brings to the classroom?

I think gaming is one of the best activities for kids to do, both at school as well as at home. (I take a lot of pride in that I’ve introduced my students to so many games that they are now looking to games on their own, watch podcasts, and follow reviewers, so they bring in games that I haven’t even played yet.)

Gaming is a great social activity the way gaming online can never be. Negotiation both in terms of the rules of the game as well as learning how to navigate social situation is improved with gaming. Learning how to play nice, win nice and lose nice, how to clean up after yourself, and probably most importantly to engage in intellectual challenge for fun and recreation.

Especially for gifted kids, the population I work the most with, they need complex problems that they can solve, or try to figure out different strategies to solve, or these kids create their own problems to solve later. Plus they get to creative and take on different roles, whether it be a pirate or a snooty-faced European trade merchant. Kids love to have fun, as we all said, and I’ve probably laughed harder during various games with my students because of what happens in their responses to what happens and I think just bringing joy and fun into their lives is worth it.

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How is teaching teens game design different from teaching adults?

Kids are much willing to take risks and go with what they think is fun and funny. Adults tend to take a more measured approach and think more realistically about the type of game they’re designing and how it would fit into the existing marketplace.

Of course, when kids are analyzing games it tends to be determined in a limited way like how much they like it or not, and adults can more clearly articulate the strengths and weaknesses of a game or prototype.

Everything kids encounter in their life for the most part are things they’ve  never done before so they are used to just jumping in and giving it a try. Adults tend to be more cautious and more concerned about failure from the beginning.

But for either group, you have to work to shift their thinking from success and failure as mutually exclusive binary constructs but instead to see failure as a setback towards the ongoing forward-moving process to success.

What at do you find the easiest about teaching design? The hardest?

I think it’s all hard! Just kidding. I’m not mathematically inclined myself, so sometimes when it comes to working with designs to make them balanced or to intuitively understand how to make a game more balanced, that’s definitely a weakness of mine.

Rather than easiest, I’ll say the most fun part is that amazing feeling of having a really great idea. Either the really big idea that gets the whole design in motion, or a really clever inventive solution towards a difficult problem.

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Favorite game? Why?

I think my favorite game from a design standpoint is Survive! Escape from Atlantis, currently published by Stronghold Games. There are a lot of really great games out there and game designers that I admire tremendously, but for me, Survive is so much fun to play. I almost don’t even care if I win. The theme and mechanics are integrated so well and it has a great balance between what I can do to help myself and what I can do to impede others. It has great components, and the possibility for laugh out moments quite a bit.

Especially when playing with kids, who sometimes have a really hard time and even melt down if something bad happens to them in a game, this game has so many opportunities for bad things to happen, both to you and to other players, of it that it actually helps to make losing easier for kids.

What do you hope educators get from your website?

When I first decided to teach game design, I found very little out there to help me. Most of it was either designed to be used by video game designers or what I could find was not really that helpful. I had to adapt a lot of what I found, like from board game designers forum, to make activities that I could use with my students and even now I do very little actual lecture or paperwork, I’ve created a lot better activities to help kids learn how to design games.

Having kids understand what the most common mechanics are and how they can use them in a game is the most important thing towards them designing games because otherwise they will stick to what they know which is for the most part roll and move and event decks.

I started using the game UnPub as a way for them to develop a whole wide variety of game concepts and if they didn’t know one of the mechanics on their card, than they would have to look it up. It lent itself to lot more discussion about mechanics and themes and how they could be applied. The kids’ games and understanding of mechanics have become better since I started using that to teach mechanics, as opposed to the PowerPoint that I used to do.

Teaching really is game design. Anytime you’ve come up with a lesson and then when the lesson, seen where the problems are, trying to create solutions for them, and make it better and more interesting for the next time is exactly what game design is.

I think for me the most exciting thing is hearing from gamers and teachers all over the world who discovered my website and say things like oh my god this is exactly what I’m looking for, thank you so much for doing this, totally makes my day. All of it’s free because I just want people to have access to use it to learn from it. A lot of homeschool groups are using it, it’s being used at all different levels from elementary through college, and I’m always happy to collaborate and consult with anyone at any time on just about anything related to gaming.

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How would you like to see more gaming implemented into the class room in the future?

More after school clubs at least so kids have access to really great games in that critical time after school, before their parents get home from work, when they might be more inclined to be on the computer playing games. I don’t have any problem video games at all, but if we can keep kids engaged with each other socially and at school, that’s a great thing. Plus it’s more kids come to my game club, when I have them in class they already have exposure to so many really great games that it makes working with them in game design a lot easier. They have a lot of ideas and I’ve already seen a lot of things they like and don’t like.

As far as the classroom itself I think there’s a lot of really exciting things happening with the gameification of the classroom, and not just a point system is overlaid over what you’re already doing, but more ways to figure out how to get kids to create their own answers given a set of information rather than being presented with incorrect/correct answers. Turning dry lessons into games, even if they aren’t great, will get a better response and more engagement from students then just straight up facts being taught.

Big announcements or upcoming news?

I have two games in development with different publishers! So the next couple of years should be especially exciting, when those hit the market. I’ll keep you updated when they get announced!

 

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Kathleen is also a character in the upcoming Heroes Wanted: Elements of Danger! Check it out on Kickstarter!

Video Games vs Board Games: Which is Better?

Guest Post by: John Martins of gametablesguide.com

Playing games is an unseparated part of our life. It’s an effective way to reduce stress and have fun with our loved ones. Either you love playing table tennis, chess or Call of Duty, the thing is that you must love games. It’s in our human nature.

There are many types of games. Board games and video games are popular ones.

Board games have been around since ancient times and have even been a huge part of human civilization. Just take a look at games like Chess or Backgammon, which have been played by kings and even decided entire wars during history.

However, in our modern age, video games have taken the forefront of gaming entertainment, growing into an industry to rival even that of movies and TV shows. Both entertainment mediums have their pros and cons and here are the main differences.

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Board Games: Old but Gold

We have always loved to play games. It is a way for the human mind to relax and even to play out fantasies. Games can even be considered to be healthy for a human being. And board games were the very first around.

Without going back into antiquity, the best example of a modern board game is Dungeons & Dragons. Having been created in the early 70`s, this game became so popular that it is even played today, almost 40 years later. And it also shows two huge differences between board games and video games: The social aspect as one, and using your imagination, as the other.

The Social Interaction Aspect is undeniable

Board games have always been social games. You gather around with a couple of friends, have good food, beverages and generally a very good time.

D&D requires at the least 4 players to play, and it also involves a human Dungeon Master, who co-ordinates the whole game. You are required to go to a place, meet with people and play with them face to face and interact socially.

Besides getting you out of the house, it is also a great way to improve your social skills. While some people may argue that video games have always had multiplayer components and that you can play them as well with other people, it is not the same thing. Playing through a monitor and computer is not the same thing as sitting around table with other people throwing dice and deciding on how to proceed in the game.

And the same thing is true for other types of board games, from Monopoly to Warhammer to the humble Chess. The main pro for board games is the social interaction you have with other people. Or in other words: Having fun together.

Board Games Enhances Your Imagination

Imagination is another great plus in regards to board games. When you play D&D, as an example, all you get is a wall of text, describing where you are, what your options are and what you could possibly do. You are required to put yourself into the mind of your created player character and interact with your companions to figure out what to do.

There are no graphics showing you anything about the landscape, location, not even your foes. You have to imagine it all, and so do the other players and even the Dungeon Master. The same is true for other board games.

In Warhammer, all you get are hand painted figurines that act as your units and army, and maybe a well-made combat map.

In Risk, you get a map of the world and a couple of figurines to shove around it, telling the other players what is yours and what you conquered.

Generally speaking, most of the game takes place in your head, and it is a great way to train your creativity. And that is true for almost all board games.

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Video Games: The Modern Age Way of Entertainment

The basic truth about video games, is, that they are a natural extension of board games through advanced technology that we possess in our modern age.

The very first video games that lay the foundation for all others were inspired by board games of a type of another. And it evolved so far, that some video games are hardly distinguishable from a Hollywood movie. And that is one of the major advantages of video games. The other one is ease of use.

The Visual Graphics Keep Getting Better

The cinematic aspect of modern video games is undeniable. Beautiful graphics showing awesome landscapes, vehicles, monsters are one thing, the movement of your characters, the things they can do, even down to the script for conversations and the general story, is another. And rounding it all up are incredibly well done musical soundtracks that only add to the experience.

Modern video games feel just like a movie, only that you can interact and play it out yourself, with you being the main protagonist. This is something that board games will never be able to top. But on the other hand, you lose imagination for the sake of having everything presented to you on the screen.

They Are Straightforward and Easy to Use

Ease of use is another huge aspect of video games. Since most video games are based on a ruleset or another, just like board games, your computer or mobile device will take over the task of rolling those dice, figuring out if you succeeded or not or if you won a battle or lost, without the need of a game master or a bunch of rule books that you have to check for a specific rule that you are not sure about.

That allows the player to fully immerse themselves into the game without worrying about such things and just enjoy the experience. And this opened up games that were really complicated in their board game format to a whole lot of people that came to love them, but did not have the patience or time, to learn all the rules.

Video Games Vs Board Games: Which Is Better?

There is no real competition between board games and video games. Most avid video gamers are also avid board game lovers, and board games are still going strong, with new systems and settings appearing almost every month.

Most gamers who are into role-playing video games are also D&D fans and are still playing it with their friends in the weekends.

Both entertainment mediums have their merits and in the end, it`s just a matter of preference.

And the best thing is, you don`t even have to choose. Just play both.

Real Women of Gaming’s Top Things We’re Thankful For

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Thanksgiving was days ago, yes, but the spirit of being thankful is still upon us. In this spirit, the Real Women of Gaming Staff has shared what they are thankful for this holiday season. Let us know in the comments below what you’re thankful for!

I am so thankful for the friends that I’ve made while embracing and celebrating all the things that I love and nerd out about. I’m finally living in a time where I can openly talk about my love for Dungeons & Dragons, gaming, fandoms (ALL THE FANDOMS). This has helped me to make some deep connections with friends that I was previously unable to make while hiding so much of myself. I am blessed that I have them all and all of the RWoG staff are true and dear friends to me. I love them all to bits. ~Crymson Pleasure~

I should start off by saying that I am grateful for many things, however one thing that has consistently made my world better is fandom. Some of my best friends have been made by “geeking out.” I joined this wonderful group because of a conversation that started with fandom. I truly am not sure if I would be alive if not for the friends that I have made because of fandoms. Fandom have been my shield, my safe space, a place to hone my talents, my mirror and my fun!

Always keep sparkling -Thia the Bard

I am thankful for my parents. Whatever my Dad could do for us, he did. He worked two jobs, moonlighting as a drummer in a wedding band while fixing vending machines during the day. My Mom, aside from the massive task of raising 3 boys and a girl, taught us how to play. Every board game we got we learned through her. All the classic parlor games, she taught us. When we got our first console…she kicked us off of it so she could play. She’s the reason I create, the reason I play games. I’m thankful for Mom and Dad. -MaxUrso

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been working overtime to keep my guild running smoothly, ensure its stability, and maintain its growth. It’s left me stressed-out, exhausted, and unhappy. My in-game friends know me well enough to notice, and care enough about my wellbeing to intervene. In this ‘intervention,’ they insisted I take a break from raiding and offered to take over some of my duties as a guild officer. It’s given me the chance to recharge and catch up on some RL duties I’d been neglecting. I couldn’t be more grateful. I am so, so thankful that these people, people whose faces I’ve never seen with my own eyes, are looking out for me. -Solyria

I’m thankful for many things, including my husband, my friends, my family, and my health. More specifically, I’m thankful for my new, full-time job and the geeky friends I’m making there. It’s awesome to be working in an environment where coworkers tell me that I “rolled a 20” or got a “critical hit” on a piece of work, where people play D&D over lunch, and where we’ve set up biweekly board game nights after work. It certainly makes the daily grind that much more bearable, and sometimes even enjoyable. -Rinshi

Things I am thankful for…A steady D&D play group of fun friends to play with that make me laugh and enjoy the game. Being able to go out on Friday night and play Magic: the Gathering for a few hours with other friends and get stomped and do some stomping. Waiting on the news on when I will get my new Kitty Mango  -Fluffy the Necromancer

This year’s been a tough one. I’m thankful for the friends and family that were with me, and are still with me. The health of my family, and my son getting his GED. My job still being great, and my writing starting to get some notice out in the world. -Trever

I’m thankful for conventions. A lot of the time I feel like my world is very small. It’s easy to me to retreat to the familiar and I end up feeling like it’s impossible for me to meet new people and make new friends. Conventions get me out among awesome people who share my love of awesome things and I have made some great new friends going to them. -UC Booties

I am thankful for a roof over my head. It has been a rough year I think for everyone but personally it had gotten to a point where things were getting to the unknown. I am very thankful for my amazing husband who supports me in this endeavor of being a part of this group and my streaming career. I couldn’t do it without him. -KinkedNitemare-

I am thankful for video games, which make me happy even if some of them are as old as I am. Video games have evolved with technology and there is something to fit every person now. They help teach children, they help people focus. They provide escape from tough times, even if only for a little bit. VR is now helping people approach situations that are scary to help them get over their fears as much as it is entertaining.

Hearing the do-do-do-do of the dungeon song in Mario makes me smile, every time. Seeing the old games from Atari and SNES brings me back to a childhood where video games were primitive but oh so thrilling. My family used to gather around to play… or watch my dad play Dig Dug for the millionth time. Even now, my family gathers to play. Separately, hubby has his World of Tanks. My 62 year old Mom, has her World of Warcraft, played religiously. My brother, the traitor with the PS4. The XBox One is all mine. But together, we have Mario Kart. We have board games like Monopoly made into video games (no banker cheating, yay!), among others.

So I am thankful for video games, without which my life would have gone on, but would have been a great deal more boring for it. -Chritter

There ya have it, folks! What are you thankful for?

Do Tabletop Games Reflect the Same Gender Bias as Video Games?

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A playable character from the game Boss Monster

My brother and I have always loved games.  When we were young children, we used to put all of our board games together, forming one mega-board game that stretched across our family room.  When we were older, we discovered Magic: The Gathering, and the Pokemon trading card game.  My brother spent many weeks worth of allowances at the local hobby card shop.  I rarely did.  Even as I kid, I hated to part with money. Every now and then, he would participate in store-run tournaments.  I didn’t.  I didn’t think I was good enough, and interacting with the adult men who often played in them made me uncomfortable.

 

Anita Sarkeesian and the Gamergaters have brought sexism in video games to the forefront of public consciousness.  But what about tabletop games?  Both families of games have been pillars of nerd culture for decades.  They both shape the culture and are shaped by it, and this cross-pollination can make their influences very difficult to separate.  However, while the misogyny that pervades the video game industry often infects the tabletop world, it is less entrenched, and, as I argue, less insidious.

To understand why, we need to first look at the differences between the two media.  Tabletop gaming has been around in some form since before there were tables.  Ancient civilizations played with dice, cards, and boards.  Modern board games like Monopoly date to the early twentieth century.  Conversely, the technology that allows video games to exist has only been around for a few decades.  Video games started out being marketed to a diverse audience, but without thousands of years of history saying otherwise, it was relatively easy for advertisers in the 1980s and 90s to create the narrative that video games were always meant for boys and young men.

Historians now blame the great video game crash of 1983 on the ubiquity of low-quality games in the late 70s and early 80s, which lead to the loss of consumer confidence.  However, regardless of the crash’s actual cause, video game marketers in the 80s scrambled to reinvent their product, to portray it as something they could sell.  Their analytics showed them that more boys than girls were playing games, so the advertisers ran with it: they doubled down on selling video games to that particular demographic, hoping that targeted messaging would lead to better sales.  The strategy worked.  The gaming industry slowly began to recover from the crash, but there was a dark side to the recovery.

When corporations began marketing video games exclusively for boys, it lead developers to design games specifically to appeal to straight, male, and generally white players.  More and more games portrayed male power-fantasies.  Female characters were scarce, and tended not to be playable.  After all, why should developers bother with female playable characters if only males play video games?  Of the few women who did appear in the games of the 80s and 90s, the majority were either damsels to be rescued, background decorations designed for sex appeal, or some combination of both.

The unfortunate result is an entire generation of men who grew up never knowing a world where they weren’t at the center of video gaming.  An entirely new medium for storytelling grew up around them, becoming more and more mainstream, and the only stories being told were about them.  Stories are everything.  They are the basis for our personal and cultural identities.  It’s not surprising that those aggressively gendered games at least perpetuated a deeply misogynistic gaming culture.  We’re still struggling with this culture today.  Game companies created games that catered to male players, who went on to become developers who created more sexist games and hired people like themselves.

While tabletop games exhibit the same sorts of sexist tropes that proliferate across all media, they simply don’t have the same history of ingrained sexism that video games do.  It’s hard to imagine Milton Bradley suddenly deciding that Monopoly is for boys only and covering the game board with scantily clad women.  Board games have existed relatively unchanged for millennia.  Gendered board games do exist, of course, resulting from the same kind of targeted marketing that affected video games.  The difference is that the medium itself is not gendered, despite what The Big Bang Theory has to say about Dungeons and Dragons.

I believe there is another reason that sexism in video games is more pernicious than it is in tabletop games.  Tabletop games can certainly be sexist; in fact, nearly every sexist trope can be found in one MtG card art alone (I’m looking at you ‘evil demon seductress’ and ‘why’s the girl always got to play the cleric?’).  The same tropes can be found everywhere we tell stories, from books to movies to television and beyond.  What is it about video games that makes their sexist tropes so problematic?

The answer is found in the very nature of the medium.  Modern video games, with their high-res graphic and real time decision making are quite possibly the most immersive form of storytelling humanity has invented.  The written word can come close.  Books let readers see through characters’ eyes and experience their thoughts, but they are not interactive.  They don’t allow their audience to step into the characters’ shoes in the same way that games do.

Furthermore, games do something that no other medium can: they incentivize particular behaviors.  Gaming can work a lot like a chemical addiction. Taking an addictive drug or getting an achievement in a game can both cause the brain’s reward pathways to activate.  The brain then reprograms itself to repeat that outcome, resulting in a behavioral shift.  So, when video games incentivize, for example, violence against women, there is a real risk of players’ brains physically changing in ways that could result in violent behavior in the real world.  While all games have mechanics that could incentivize certain behaviors, video games are particularly worrisome because of their immersive nature and the misogynistic history of video game culture.  While paper and pencil RPGs also have mechanics, and are also very immersive, the difference is that when the game is unlinked from graphics and technology, the stories are more open ended, games are more adaptable, and customization options are nearly infinite.  Ultimately, with TTRPGs, the players, not the gaming companies, control the content.  An individual campaign may be sexist, but the medium of tabletop roleplaying does not, itself, encourage sexism.

Both the video- and tabletop-gaming industries have a lot of work to do when it comes to combating sexism.  The in-person nature of tabletop gaming competitions can unintentionally exclude women who would prefer to cloak their identity behind a digital avatar.  Sexist comments can be found in the chat-channels of even the safest of online gaming spaces.  Writers and developers can help by consciously hiring diverse employees and writing three-dimensional characters of all genders and backgrounds.  The rest of us can help by looking critically at the games we play, and inviting our female friends and family members to play with us.  It will be a difficult journey, especially where video games are concerned, but the view from the top will have been worth it.

 

References:

http://www.themarysue.com/sexism-at-magic-tournament/

http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/bossmonster/images/c/c0/BMA006_Seducia.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20130211012442

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1154384/sexism-industry

http://www.polygon.com/features/2013/12/2/5143856/no-girls-allowed

Crash Course Games: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPqR2wOs8WI&list=PL8dPuuaLjXtPTrc_yg73RghJEOdobAplG

Feminist Frequency: https://feministfrequency.com/