Dialectic of Design

Political games are becoming increasingly visible and important. Games are a medium through which we can explore the world as players and express our feelings about the often complicated world we find ourselves in as designers. And, after all, everything is political in that it reflects the ideology of the creator, the audience, and the world in which both operate. Therefore, I believe that political games could use a deeper investigation.

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Game Design Against Fascism: The Golden Age

Welcome to the second part in a continuing series of articles that will address how to design games that do not contain fascist ideology. First, I’d like to suggest that everyone reading this check out the initial primer. Second, I’d like to remind the reader that the purpose of this series is less for individual players and GMs, and more for people looking to create new games. While some of the ideas here can be applied to individual home games, a burden of responsibility lies mostly on those working on designing games.

Rather than going more in depth in one of the topics that was presented in the primer, this piece will address a topic that I didn’t include in the primer because I think it’s a broad enough concept that it needs special attention. It’s an idea deeply rooted in fantasy fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, and fascist ideology, perhaps due to the lingering impact of the fall of the Roman Empire on the European cultural psyche. This article will be talking about the Golden Age.

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Succession Review

being a tale yet untold of myth, might, and mystery

I recently purchased Succession after hearing it was a game with an melancholy air to it, using a storygame, rules light system. Since I’m designing a similar game, I decided that I’d give it a look. It turned out to be a little too rules light for my purposes, but I figured I could salvage the purchase by doing a F&F of it.

The first thing that becomes apparent is that the game has really bad layout. It uses a standard letter sized page, with extremely thin margins and single columns of text. This makes paragraphs stretch too long, with lines that are difficult to read easily. This problem is further compounded by the text, which is written in a way that tries to capture the tone of the world and stories to be told in it, which is not a great choice for rules text. It also doesn’t help that the font is small and cramped. Fortunately, the book is only thirteen pages long, so it’s easy to read it over multiple times.

That said, let’s dive into the contents.

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How to Make Your Game Anti-Fascist

I might be kicking a hornet’s nest with this one, but I think it’s an important topic to talk about. America, and much of the world, has seen a new rise of fascism, in a variety of authoritarian guises. This is definitely a global issue, but all global issues are also local ones, so I think we all have a responsibility to address fascism in our communities.

There’s no denying that tabletop RPGs and LARPs have a fascism problem. The introductory work, Dungeons and Dragons, is rife with material that appeals to fascists of all stripes, from its treatment of race to its codification of alignment to its fetishization of violence. To make matters worse, many works do not examine their relationship with authoritarianism and fascism and wind up creating worlds and systems that allow fascists to take root and find comfort.

This is simply not acceptable.

Fortunately, there are tools available to game designers and runners that can be implemented to help create games that are not friendly to fascists and their ideology. Consider this a primer – an introductory text of its own.

As a note, not all of these strategies need to be used in a given work. However, the more that are used, the less room that fascists will find to engage with the material.

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Game Theory Chat: Designing for the Social Contract

I know I’ve been away for a while now. Life has been doing that thing when it gets busy. But recently, my earlier post about decolonization has been getting some attention. A lot of the feedback has been useful and informative, and there has been some good discussions about the ideas that I’ve brought up in the article.

There’s also been some malicious response, but that is inevitable when bringing discussion about social issues into the sphere of games. This article isn’t a response to them, though I would like to point out that my desire for less violent games does not mean that I want other molds of game play to go away. This blog is to help designers create more distinctive and more interesting games, rather than to attack that which has come before.

A third group of feedback has emerged though, a group which states that it’s up to the GM and to the players at the table to determine the content of the game. To a degree, this is true. The GM and the players are ultimately the ones that implement the ideas of a game, and their interpretation of the systems of the game determine how the game actually plays.

That said, the designer does carry some onus of responsibility. A good system can, and must, shape the social contract of the game space.

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After the End: An Introduction to the Story of FFXIV

Final Fantasy XIV released to negative reception, both from the players and from the critics. I did not play the game at that point, so I can’t speak to the source of this. The game limped along for some time, before the creators eventually realized that things could not go on any further. They apologized for their mistakes, promised to do better, and then destroyed the world.

They made good on the promise. Eorzea, the world in which Final Fantasy XIV takes place, was hit by a massive, dragon-filled false moon that wrecked the landscape. And the game was relaunched, better tuned, better written, better functioning, as A Realm Reborn.

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Tacoma: The Cost of a Life

Tacoma is a science fiction game set aboard an abandoned space station, empty save for the detritus of life behind and the lingering shades of digital ghosts. It’s the job of your character to collect data related to the AI left behind, and the interest of the player to delve deeper into the mystery of just what happened on Tacoma.

It’s entirely possible to leave things be, do your job while watching as a series of progress bars fill up, but the real excitement comes from interacting with the remnants that your hardware can detect. Certain themes are uncovered in this exploration, which will be discussed below the fold. Spoilers are to come.

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