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Kickstarter Preview: Psi Wars

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It is the 37th century. Competing warlords have harnessed the knowledge of creation, using it to create powerful armies. This knowledge has spread across the galaxy unchecked causing mass-extinctions. Most of humanity has been wiped out. The Galactic Alliance has enlisted your help. Hyper-Card technology allows you to take part in planetary battles and help re-establish order in the galaxy.

In Psi Wars you’ll use advanced technologies to create an army of forces in order to fight for control of your planet. Creatures battle psyonically, physically, and through cyber attacks. To win, a player must use their army to crush their opponent’s forces and reduce their lab to 0.

Developed by Michael Wohl (a self professed old school gamer) and his son, Adeev (who usually wins their games), Psi Wars is a fast playing futuristic themed deck builder for 2-4 players. I chatted with the boys about Psi Wars and the game design process in anticipation of their Kickstarter launch.

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What prompted the development of Psi Wars?

Michael: My son Adeev and I have been playing games for years, including all sorts of card games. Since I have been a gamer for 40 years and an an entrepreneur for 30 (thanks to gaming) – I had a lot of experience to pull from, both as a gamer and a developer. I really felt games that had absolutes, such as games where a 5 always beat a 4) were missing important elements of life. A 5 has a better chance of beating a 4, but not 100%. In life there are no absolutes, which could be reflected in a game. We realized that we could create a multi-dimensional game that had relatively simple rules with tremendous degrees of freedom of decision-making. This would lead to highly creative strategies – a beautiful balance of creativity and reasoning. We went through so many iterations and refinements together. I like Decision-Making research, Game Theory, etc, which is at the heart of Psi Wars.

Adeev: My dad and I like to play a lot of games and watch movies together. We started bending rules of some games and really enjoyed the process. We thought we could expand this idea.

What did you think about the design/playtesting process? What did you like/dislike?

Adeev: It was a really fun and educational experience. I was able to create something from my imagination. I kept thinking of new cards and abilities and would share them with my dad. I created spreadsheets with tons of ideas. It was really fun doing this with my dad, we learned a lot together and I now know what it takes to launch a business.

 I was always a bit impatient about getting the game out there and always excited for new ideas. I even started counting down the days until launch. I even get to go to game conventions for ‘work.’ I mean, how cool is that?

Michael: The design and play testing was a highlight of the entire process. Our goal was a beautifully balanced game. Every time we changed a small rule it would change us and how we played. We’d see if there was a way to ‘game’ the rules, etc. Once it was refined, we sought highly sophisticated players of other strategic card games and their reaction was wonderful – nobody has played anything quite like Psi Wars. It was invigorating to recognize the excitement they found in playing our game. The other piece was working with all of the artists around the world to create an artistic vision that works also as 3D animated lenticular cards. We were lucky to work with some amazing people to produce outstanding art. Everyone flips out over the 3D cards. From the start, we wanted the game to be mesmerizing from an artistic and sensory perspective. I think holding back Psi Wars until it was really ready to launch was hard. We worked on it for over 2.5 years and we are dying for people to play it. We are very curious to see what all of the amazing minds in the world do when they start to construct/personalize their own decks and strategies. We have non-random expansion packs in the works.

What do you hope your audience gets/takes away from the game?

Michael: Really appreciating the card art while kicking some serious butt through mind-bending strategies that make you jump up and down and scream like we do when we play.  A new joy that playing Psi Wars brings through creative strategy and decision-making. Navigating the fog of war with perfectly imperfect information, which helps so much to understand how to thrive in the world.

Adeev: I hope they have as much fun and enjoyment as we do playing Psi Wars.

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Psi Wars is great intro to deck builders for new players and a intensely fast playing game for experienced ones with striking art that really evokes its sci-fi theme. Check it out on Kickstarter May 15th. Keep up with their progress and updates on Facebook and Twitter.

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/

Indie Developer Spotlight: Beneath Nexus

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Indie Developer Spotlight: Beneath Nexus

by Michael Wells

Disclosure: I am a backer of Beneath Nexus on Kickstarter. Also, while I have not worked on this specific project, I have been in discussion with Silverclutch Games to provide writing for a future project.

Silverclutch company logo

It’s time for another developer spotlight! This time around we’re talking about Silverclutch games about their upcoming release Beneath Nexus. We had a chance to talk to Tom and Chris from Silverclutch at Too Many Games in Oaks, PA (check out our convention impressions here and here) and now we’re pleased to feature them and their project on our site.

The Project:

Beneath Nexus game logo

From their website:

Beneath Nexus is a dungeon crawling card game for 4 to 6 players. Discover powerful treasures and unlock forgotten secrets in your quest to reclaim the city of Nexus. The Heroes combine their unique skills and powers to overcome the trials of The Blight Lord who uses fiendish monsters and dark magicks to destroy all who delve Beneath Nexus.

Beneath Nexus is a tabletop card game that offers an exciting roleplaying experience in a quickplay format. It is inspired by Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop RPGs and aims to recreate the feel of those games using predetermined heroes with decks of unique abilities. One player takes on the traditional GM role and plays the Blight Lord, a boss character for the other players to take on. To do so, the other players choose heroes that are drawn from traditional role-playing class archetypes and must strategize how best to use their complimentary abilities to overcome the monsters and spells that the Blight Lord arrays against them.

Beneath Nexus is currently up on Kickstarter and has nearly reached 75% of their goal at time of this writing. Take a look and consider backing this exciting project.

Developer Interview:

I sent a few questions to Silverclutch Games and Chris took some time away from their Kickstarter and Convention schedule to respond.

What made you want to get into game development?

Tom and I have both played games since early childhood. Tom developed his passion for gaming when he was introduced to Magic: the Gathering in the 3rd grade. I played the classics with my father, and he was relentless. Instead of a healthy hobby, my passion for gaming lies more so in my hunger for revenge against my dad for absolutely decimating my brother and me for years in Risk, Stratego, Checkers, and Uno. We began gaming together when Tom joined my Pathfinder RPG group when we were in college. Both of us have always been curious about how games work and have been ready to criticize any game that comes our way. We ended up making games because we knew what we wanted to play and wanted to share those ideas with our friends.
How did Silverclutch Games get started?
Silverclutch Games is a product of my desire to own my own business and Tom’s desire to create awesome games. Tom was developing an introductory dungeon crawler for a handful of months when I approached him with the idea to start our own game design business. That was June of 2015. We incorporated in August, 2015, with the plan to create accessible, easy to learn games that engage the hobbyist gamer.

 

What were your inspirations for Beneath Nexus?
Tom and I are huge fans of D&D, Dungeonworld, etc. We play roleplaying games regularly, but many of our friends can’t be bothered with the hefty rulebook and long playtimes. That bums us out! Beneath Nexus was created so that new players and casual gamers can get a taste of the fantasy adventure genre without having to do homework in the meantime.
What about Beneath Nexus is most interesting/exciting to you as a designer?
We tried a lot of different things, mechanically, with Beneath Nexus. We wanted it to be easy to learn, quick to play, and interesting for both hobbyists and newbies, so we had to experiment with a bunch of different ideas. What excited me most about the process was translating player feedback into mechanical changes. A lot of hobbyists tested the game, so their comments were very direct and specific. The casual gamers that had much more general feedback were the most fun for me because the playtesting notes became a puzzle of vague notions after a few play throughs. Tom seemed most excited by the balance of the asymmetry of the game. Making sure the Blight Lord wasn’t too weak or too strong was a huge task when we incorporated it. Tom dug into it immediately and really shined there.
Hero- Lunja
I had the chance to play two games of Beneath Nexus at Too Many Games and was very impressed by how polished and balanced the game is. A great deal of obvious care went into the design of the heroes, their abilities, and the ways that they interact with each other. Using the whole party’s abilities in just the right way to overcome a challenge feels a bit like the moment in Magic: The Gathering when the cards in your deck line up and play just right for that devastating combo. Meanwhile, the Blight Lord’s abilities and Monsters keep players on their toes and can easily punish careless or reckless play. The game looks like it is rewarding for players on either side of the table.
The game is already available in a print and play format if you want to give it a go. I can’t wait for the physical game to be released. For more information about the game and Silverclutch Games, check out the Beneath Nexus Kickstarter and their website.

Three Years and Counting

Three Years and Counting

Today marks the third anniversary of the formation of Real Women of Gaming!

Real Women of Gaming started in 2013 as a group of women who were tired of being called “Fake Gamer Girls.” We pulled together in an attempt to fight the “Fake Gamer Girl” stereotype by telling the world that we’re real gaming women.

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Our First Profile Picture

At first, we started out by forming a Facebook page and posting funny memes on it. From there, we decided we wanted to blog about our experiences, and thus this website was born. After that, we ventured into Tumblr and Twitter, eventually landing ourselves on Instagram, Twitch and, finally, YouTube.

Today, Real Women of Gaming is made up of women and men who have helped to foster the amazing community we have today. Our content writers, content creators, mods, admins and friends come from all walks of life, helping us to create something so much bigger than ourselves as individuals.

This sense of community led us to creating our anti-bullying campaign, You’re Not Alone, two years ago, in an effort to raise awareness for bullied children. Just yesterday, July 9th, we held our second annual You’re Not Alone Anti-bullying Fundraiser at Uncanny! Comics in the King of Prussia Mall. We raised our goal of $500, which will be sent, in full, to STOMP Out Bullying. We couldn’t have done that without you.

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Our First Customized Facebook Banner

As someone who’s been in it since the beginning, let me just say… what a ride this has been so far. From writing my first blog post to casting my first live stream on Twitch to uploading my first YouTube Let’s Play, I have been in awe of the amount of camaraderie and love that is provided within this community.

And not just from the staff! Though, yes, Crymson Pleasure and ColdShoulderAvenue are two of my best friends in this world, the amount of love we have received from you guys, our internet friends, is astonishing.

Without you, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

Thank you.

We love you.

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RWoG’s New Year’s Gaming Resolutions!

Gaming Resolutions 2016

Every year, most of us create a list of New Year’s Resolutions. This year, we decided to compile each of the RWoG Admins’ gaming resolutions in a list for you guys. Check below to see what each of us want this year!

And let us know your 2016 Gaming Resolutions in the comments below!

Read the rest of this entry

Giving Thanks to Games

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Since this is the time of the year for reflection and thankfulness, I thought I’d ask my fellow admins what games they were thankful for. This is what we had to say:

 

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My sister has always been my best friend but, as we get older and life becomes increasingly more hectic and stressful, our time together is precious. For the last couple months, we have started playing Hearthstone together. It’s almost a tradition now, where we play the latest Tavern Brawl and chat with each other. I spam the emotes and she gets annoyed. It’s a good time, really! It can be so easy to be consumed with all of the stuff around us that we get disconnected with some of the people that make life great. So thank you, Hearthstone, for being a wonderful part of our friendship and helping us connect around brutally hitting each other’s faces with beasts and mechs and stuff.

~ Avenue

Dungeons & Dragons has been ever-present in my life. Even though I didn’t start playing until I was in my early 20s, I’ve found that D&D has always had a special place in my heart. My brother and his friends played it weekly and two of my older sisters would join in every once in awhile. My brother was always talking to me about it and telling me all about the monsters and the races, etc. By the time I was old enough to play, my oldest siblings were already out of the house, so I had nobody to play with. Fast forward to 2013, when Crymson invited me to play in my first campaign. I’ve been playing ever since. Not only has it brought me closer to many of my good friends, but it’s also allowed me to connect with my siblings in a way I couldn’t before. So, thank you Dungeons & Dragons. I hope you continue to bring people together.

~ Vanri the Rogue

I have had one game that has been a constant in my life. My whole family plays it. We trash talk and make bets. It is mini golf. I know, I know. This doesn’t sound like the type of game that we would normally be blogging about, but it is a game that I love to play. My mom, dad, younger brother and I played a lot of mini golf. It was affordable and fun. My dad used to patiently try to teach me how to line up a shot while reminding me to just stay calm. It was good practice for life and playing other games, since I get so frustrated with myself.

My older cousins and their kids play with us now and there is a lot of competition. We go in a big group and split up in different teams. We play, we tease each other and then we eat ice cream. It is always fun. We tell stories about playing on the same courses when we were kids. Most importantly, we all get to be together.

~ Thia the Bard

The first video game that I ever got for myself was Pokemon: Yellow for the GameB
oy back in the year 2000. I had been collecting the cards, so getting the game just seemed like a natural outgrowth of that CCG obsession (I managed to snag 5 Charizard cards over my collecting career, by the way, all booster pack pulls. I still have three of them). Ever since then, the Pokemon series has held an important place in my gamer heart. I got at least one game from each generation. While I may not have caught ’em all since the early days of the games (I mean, really, who has time to catch over 700 ‘mons these days?), there is something exhilarating about that ‘click!’ when a pokeball successfully loc photo gt2gRINSHI_zpsq9jrztt7.pngks tight around a rare pokemon, even after all these years. It makes me so happy when I can help my friends by breeding pokemon that I have and they need. Most importantly, though, Pokemon led me to be a gamer, and, without that, I may never have made the wonderful relationships that I have, including my husband, my best friend, and many of my closest friends. So thank you, Pokemon, for turning me into a Real Woman of Gaming, and for making my life complete.

~ Rinshi

I have to say the game I am most thankful for is EverQuest. It was my first MMO. The people I met through that game and the experiences I had there helped build my beliefs on how women can be just as included in games as men.

I had a good guild and was never harassed. I made great friends and, even though we all went separate ways, I still remember the experience as a great one and always strive to find it again in anything I play.

~ KinkedNitemare

I can’t say that I am thankful for any one game, really. Everquest was my first MMO, and it did make an impact on my life. I was first introduced to it when I stopped by a buddy’s room in the barracks while I was stationed in Alaska. I was amazed at the game. I would just hang out and watch him play for hours a night. Eventually, he let me make a character and try it out for myself. I was hooked at that point. I got my own account and would play for hours after work and all weekend long, many times pulling 24+ hour marathons. For $15 a month, I was transported into a new world, making friends from all over the planet. I played steadily until 2005 when a bunch of us in Afghanistan got into playing WoW, which ended up taking the place of Everquest for a few years (though I would still jump into it every so often). Eventually, I got burned out on the daily grind of WoW and moved back to EQ. MMO’s were my escape from the daily grind of work and deployment.

~ Fluffy the Necromancer
When I was a kid, my grandmother worked at Kiddy City and the Nintendo was the newest thing, so she bought it for us that Christmas. At first, I really wasn’t sure what to make of it, but I got my

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Credit: Victoria Mallon

hands on Super Mario Bros and was hooked. Mario was not my first love, though, Final Fantasy was. My father had picked it up and helped me play. It got to the point where we would talk about things that happened in the game. It was exciting and new and a great bond I had with my father. That is what got me into gaming but, all these years after his passing, I have those memories to look back on and remember him and all the fun we had together so fondly. I often wonder what he would think of the games out today. I hope that one day I can share a bond like that with my daughter.

~Crymson Pleasure~

What games are you thankful for? We’d love to hear your stories. Thank you for reading and have a great holiday!

+2 Comedy Podcast

plus2logoRinshi and I had the honor of being on the +2 Comedy Podcast *clears throat* severalweeksagoI’msosorry *clears throat* and had an amazing time with Noah and Will. Aside from the fact that we were both extremely nervous and awkward, good times were had by all. But that’s kind of our modus operandi so, really, it was like home. I sucked at the chosen IMDB game (I tried REALLY REALLY HARD), and a fan walked away with a pasta boat, 3 versions of love letter, a deck of steampunk playing cards and a map from the Prototype video game. We had a blast and hope to get invited back right after Will drops those stalking charges (just kidding, charges were never filed). Plus, we are excited that we will be seeing Noah again at You’re Not Alone on July 18th.

In case you haven’t heard it click below:
Rinshi and Crymson Pleasure on +2 Comedy

+2 Comedy Facebook
+2 Comedy Twitter