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PAX Unplugged 2019: Day 1 Impressions

Having started in 2017, PAX Unplugged is the first PAX convention to center entirely around tabletop gaming. This year, we have the privilege of being flies on the wall at the Philadelphia Convention Center (AKA press).

Lines for registration were long at the start of the day, according to some fellow con-goers. We arrived around noon, however, so we had no issues getting in and getting registered quickly.

Everyone was very helpful and knowledgeable from the second we walked in. Lena at registration welcomed us warmly to our first PAX Unplugged, let us know what the Enforcer uniform looked like should we need to find someone, and directed us on where to go.

The Philadelphia Convention Center is huge and can be difficult to navigate, which got a little overwhelming at times. Thankfully, the convention set up “World Maps” throughout the buildings to let you know where you are so you can get around easier.

We met several new people and saw some familiar faces. We had the pleasure of speaking with Tanya from I Need Diverse Games, Jeff from Tabletop Gaymers, and the wonderful folks at Take This, a charity devoted to mental health in gaming.

We saw interesting board and card games from Magpie Games, Origami Whale Games, and Atlas Games. I am particularly excited for The Shivers, a new pop-up horror game coming to Kickstarter early next year.

We perused amazing gamer equipment providers, such as Level Up Dice, Wyrmwood Gaming, Elderwood Academy, and Norse Foundry, and really wished we had more in our bank accounts so we could buy ALL THE THINGS.

I was happy to make it to a couple of panels. The first was World Building for Lazy Dungeon Masters, which focused on different ways you could build a campaign without preparing every single detail before Session Zero. This included borrowing from existing stories and asking players for their input.

We also made it to the Girls’ Game Shelf live show, where they played a game called Were Word. This is like Werewolf and Mafia, but you have to guess a special word in order to save yourself from the werewolf. It was hilarious and looks like a lot of fun. This panel also included AnnaMaria, who is a former writer for Real Women of Gaming!

We had an action-packed first day at PAX Unplugged, and I honestly loved all of it! Now, on to day two!

PAX Unplugged and The Roll Initiative

Unplugged

Lords, Ladies, Lads, and Lasses – I have recently returned from attending my first convention as an exhibitor. Thia the Bard was gracious enough to provide me some questions to answer about my experience.

How did you find out about The Roll Initiative?

I saw an ad posted by The Roll Initiative on a Dungeons & Dragons Adventurers League facebook page looking for volunteer Dungeon Masters for PAX Unplugged. I’ve had experience playing in the AL and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to step up and DM, delving deeper into the league.

What is your favorite thing about TRI?

I like that it’s just starting out and this was the first event they were orchestrating. The entire lead team are also gamers and fans of D&D. I was able to be myself and ended meeting a lot of fun people. I hope I made a few friends along the way.

What are you most excited about for PAX Unplugged this year? 

Since this was an official D&D event, TRI was able to get Fai Chen to attend our RPG slots. (Fai Chen’s Fantastical Faire is the D&D Adventures League trading post.) Players in the league can use Fai Chen at conventions to trade magical items they don’t have a use for. I’ve collected a few myself, and honestly that was my biggest goal in attending the convention. 

TRI

That’s our logo!

Did you get to attend any panels?

I was so busy running modules over the weekend I was unable to attend any of the panels. I would have liked to have seen the Critical Role gang.

What advice do you have for newbies headed to events like PAX Unplugged?

Be patient. The role playing game fandom is HUGE and sometimes the organizers underestimate how many wonderful people they’ll need to accommodate. The lines this year were incredible and this was the first year for both PAX Unplugged and for TRI’s RPG tables. Next year I’m sure everyone will have a much better experience.

Do you have any tips for gamers who are looking for a group like TRI?

TRI is growing, I can’t speak officially for them, but follow the link above and check them out. I’m sure they could use more DMs. You can also stay active on social media. Facebook has a lot of fan pages for DMs, players, item trades, and games with open slots. Also, if you find a page, or group you like…share it. Word of mouth is the best way to expand what we like about gaming.

All Bound Up: Art, Pornography, and “Ladykiller in a Bind”

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All Bound Up: Art, Pornography, and “Ladykiller in a Bind”

Ladykiller_in_a_Bind_cover_image

Hello, gamers!  In (belated) honor of Valentine’s day I’ve decided to get sexy and talk about porn: specifically the erotic and controversial visual novel Ladykiller In A Bind.  But, before we get started, let’s talk about art, pornogrophy, and what defnines each of them.

It seems that everyone has an opinion as to what does or does not constitute ‘art.’  At the first PAX convention I attended, an audience member asked Penny Arcade’s Jerry Holkins if he considered video games to be art.  Holkins thought (and I agree) that this was a silly question: how could something that hundreds of artists work on for months possibly be anything but art? This school of thought has been spreading, especially since Anita Sarkeesian has so famously subjected video games to the same thorough analysis that academics have used to look at literature and film for generations.

So, assuming we can agree that video games are art, we still haven’t answered the question of what ‘art’ actually is.  It’s a question I’ve thought about a great deal, especially while I was working on my BA in a creative field.  Novelist and educator John Green describes art as ‘something someone put into the world to make my life more interesting(1).’  My personal definition is similar, though not exactly the same.  I believe that, on the most basic level, art is a form of communication: something created by an individual to inspire a reaction in an audience.

This is why I’ve always thought the dichotomy between ‘art’ and ‘pornography’ to be false.  Many years ago, I found myself interviewed for a ‘man on the street’ segment of some sort, where I was shown a series of pictures and asked I considered them to be art or pornography, and why.  I probably skewed their results, since I classified every single image as ‘art’ (though I recall describing a few of them as ‘art with pornographic subject matter’).  Putting aside ‘I’ll know it when I see it,’ pornography is generally described as media designed to titillate or sexually arouse.  Which, going by my definition of art, doesn’t separate pornography from art at all.  It places it as a category: a form of communication meant to instill a particular response in the audience.

So is a pornographic video game art?  I would unequivocally say ‘yes.’  Mind you, that doesn’t mean it has to be good art.  We can probably all agree that film is an artform, but that doesn’t mean all movies have equal artistic merit.  Some films are thought provoking while others offer little more than base escapism and toilet humor.2906863-ladykiller+in+a+bind+2016-12-17+2_38_02+pm

Ladykiller occupies a nuanced position on this continuum.  It stars a young woman (the Beast) who has been forced to masquerade as her twin brother while his high-school graduating class take a cruise ship across the Atlantic.  If she acts too suspiciously she’ll be thrown into cargo hold, ending the game.  The mechanics revolve around accruing ‘votes’ (for an in-game contest that may or may not be BS), while avoiding ‘suspicion.’  Conversation options appear and disappear as they occur to the player-character.  There are two main romance storylines to chose from or combine, as well as a number of side-stories involving minor characters.  The player gets to chose the names of each character as they appear, either from one of two default options or by entering a custom name.  For the remainder of this article I’ll refer to the characters by the default names we chose in our longest playthrough.

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