Play Journal: May-September Mega Recap
by Thom Kiraly
As part of my continued effort to bring back the Play Journal, here’s a mega recap of what I’ve been up to in May, June, July, August and September.
Nordic Game Conference
Indie Night – I didn’t play all that much, but I did get to go to a wonderful thai place and watch some people play Bounden.
LMP Arena – This was the thing I was most deeply involved with at NGC and it worked out fine. The LMP arena was hidden away, so it didn’t get the love it deserved, but the ones who did find it enjoyed it. Also, the party wasn’t close to last year’s NGC madness. Did get to play Super Pole Riders and Joust.
Arabic Game Jam – I organized a pre-event in Helsingborg. It was awesome apart from the fact that not one person showed up (I’m not going to miss this part of my job). We played Joust and the Sportsfriends games. Also, I tried some horribly broken prototypes at the main event later that same month. It’s all good.
w00t 2014 – This festival was just as good as I had hoped. A bit more polished than last year’s (doesn’t say much, as that was held in what was basically a huge sandpit, but still), but not too strictly scheduled. On the first day of June, we ran our game A Drift for real for the first time. I had previously done a playtest on my own in Malmö and we managed to run through the whole thing twice in one afternoon. It felt very good. Some of the explorations and events will stay with me for a very long time.
At w00t I also played: City Dash (great fun, even though our team spent a quarter of the game outside the play area), The Avatar Controller, Political Volleyball, Push Me, Pull You as well as Sync at the All the Rave night session, Ordnungswissenschaft, The Great Gottlieb, Nowhere I’d Rather Be, and Triolectical Football. Finally, I hade the pleasure and honor to play some games with the great Bernie DeKoven, who was the guest of honor at w00t. Some people look at cool indie people making strange stuff and wish they were more like them. Me? I want to be Bernie.
Bonus: NIN Concert in Copenhagen – I know I’m an idiot for including these things in my Play Journal, but I really think that the element of play is essential at a concert of this kind. I need to have an excuse to submit that fully to a cultural experience and I don’t know what to call it if it isn’t play. Good atmosphere in the moshpit, though it took a while to really get it started.
Mutant: År Noll – a reboot of an old classic in Swedish RPGs, Mutant: År Noll goes for more grime, more brooding, and more metaplot. So far, so good —this is in line with most popculture, after all. My feeling, ultimately, is that this is two games presented as one. There’s the game-as-system, dealing with the struggles of a post-apocalyptic society while slowly being broken down by “the zone”. In parallell, there’s also the game-as-setting where complete and utter psychos kill each other for the most inane reasons, even though their supposed society is only made up by 200 people. I think that an RPGs example characters should basically be plug-and-play for the first session, but when we used the examples in the book we ended up with the worst kind of insane collection of narcissistic and murderous dipshits imaginable. As we play, we try to work against this to some extent, but it’s really not easy.
The group is really what saves this game. We play well together and we laugh our asses off the whole way through the session. Our GM needs to push a bit more against our rampaging and megalomaniacal PCs, though. And not just by saying “no, you can’t do that”. I think all of our characters should be shot at in the next session (writing this in october, a couple of sessions into the game).
Played some more Sorcerer. I couldn’t shake the feeling that we’re doing it wrong, that I’m not pushing hard enough or that something is just a tiny bit… off.
Bounden – I like it, but I suck at it.
I also went to a con and tried to get kids to make cosplay stuff and play games with me. The big hit was Starwahl, but Joust was also a winner.
Ingress – As soon as it came out, I tried Ingress for iPhone. It’s so utterly uninteresting that I uninstalled it after three days. It’s really a shame, because I consider myself very much up for pervasive gaming experiences, but this sort of layered reality stuff is not for me.
Trail of Cthulhu – Attempted to start an Armitage Files campaign. The first session was unpleasant (and not in a good way). I won’t write more about it, but safe to say is that I didn’t feel like keeping the game going after this first game night. My guess is that the group was a) too big (six players is too much for my tastes) and b) not in agreement as to what sort of play was expected or desirable. No real disagreements were had, no hard feelings expressed. To me, it was simply evident that people in the group were looking for very different play experiences and that I wasn’t feeling up for catering to all of them.
Container – This is the best con I know with some of the best people I know. I had the immense pleasure to get acquainted with the crazy board game Camel Cup. I don’t know when I saw a group of players that invested in a game, while still having an amazing time. We were repeatedly asked to be a bit more quiet, but we couldn’t contain ourselves.
Just like last year, I also played Shadow Hunters. I liked it last year, but the experience was unfortunately ruined by the sorest winner I’ve encountered since I was a kid. He played in the game this time around as well, was plenty annoying, but didn’t win and couldn’t really gloat. Thank Jebus for that.
Kulturrådsträff – Can’t be bothered to write about the actual meeting (because who gives a fuck, right?), but I went to Jönköping for one and during breaks we played Coup. I’m a fan of the Resistance from way back, but Coup is interesting on another level (several levels, actually). I especially like how the game changes with different sizes of the player group.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown – I tried XCOM but couldn’t get into it. Seriously, I will never have the time to get into this game.
SydCon 2014 – Somehow (a.k.a. “because I’m really just a primate in a man-suit”) I got involved in organizing a con. This meant I didn’t play all that much. What I did play was: Joust and Papers. Joust you know from before, but Papers was a whole lot of fun. It’s a larp about how absurd life at the office can be. I ran it with the game’s author Petter Karlsson. I strongly suspect that this game was written as much for the GMs as it was written for the players. We had a lot of room to improvise and riff off of each other and I think it went very well. Download it and run it as soon as you can.
Otherplace – Malmö’s very own public play event! Otherplace was a one-day event that I helped organize and this is what I played: a short Malmö Play Club session, DimensionZ, Floraspeak, Create Clouds, Psi Ctrl, Glitch Wizard.
Also, I ran a session of A Drift and I took part of a sort of performance meant to market the event through the Malmö Festival. I got a moustache and a lab coat, played a serious play researcher and evaluated people’s creativity in weird ways.
Proud and Nerdy – My job organized some stuff during Malmö Pride and I played these games: Hot Guys Making Out, Starwhal, Super Pole Riders. I also had the pleasure of hanging out with Avery Mcdaldno and record this cool talk about queer games.
Netrunner – My co-organizer of SydCon took pity on me and finally introduced me to Netrunner. I like it a lot, but we only played it once and I played as a Runner. I want to try Corp as well.
Canabalt – Was suprised and happy to see the iOS update of Canabalt, but I haven’t really taken the 2-player mode for a spin yet.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter – It looked so promising, but turned out to mostly be reeeeeaaaally pretty to look at. A huge possibility space is implied, but you can really only walk on a path and follow “the story”. The final scene and tracking shot is amazing, though.
ITU Stuff – I took up my studies at ITU again in the end of August and this means some, but not necessarily a lot of, play. Our game design class features it more than anything and I’ve played some sketches and prototypes, but not a lot of finished stuff.
Malmö Play Club – I went to two Play Clubs in september and one of them happened to be on my birthday! I was given a wonderful birthday gift in the form of a special sensory journey and got to play one of my favorites: Chip Chipoi!
On the first Play Club, this was on the menu: Jamaquacks, Sun and Moon (+ Jamaquack version), Evolutionary Rock Paper Scissors, Standoff, Aura (with soundtrack – The Return to Innocence), Everybody’s it freeze tag, Vampire, Rain Game.
Recurring in May-September:
I’ve played Super Hexagon (of course), NightSky (played through it in “Alternative mode”!!!), Threes, and Mountain on and off these last few months.
Also, Desert Golfing had some strange sort of appeal. I stopped at 500 holes. Saw one cactus. Cried (no, not really).
Finally, my 3 year-old has shown an interest in handheld games, but so much on the app store is either too complicated, uninteresting or just shit. I’m really trying to find a good racing game that a kid of that age could enjoy. Haven’t had any luck yet.