Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Smells like death blondes and victory"

From a year's worth of buildup, to naked dictation, to a crucifixtion, to lying ending a fight in a stalemate where both participants end up unconsiouse on the floor, Norman Osbourn better known to everyone else as the green goblin has risen from one of the stupest villians of all time to someone who should be on par with the joker.

The moment I am taliking about IGN actually voted as the best comic moment of the year, I am not going to argue with them for once.

Thank you Warren Ellis for that.

Warren Ellis's ability to slowly develop a plot element is something everyone should fucking study. When I say they spent a year building up to Norman loosing his shit and becoming the green goblin again I wasn't joking. It has been something Ellis has been forshadowing since day one when he took over the Thunderbolts. Long story shot the thunderboilts are a group of villaims who have agreed to fight crime in order to shorten their jail time, however because of that silly civil war event marvel did they are now hunting down unregisterd heros. Womp.

Most everyone is familiar with the green goblin because of the first spiderman movie. Woop! This makes my life easyer. Instead of him flying around on his rocket sled, Ellis deicded to put Osbourn back into the office chair acting as public relations, manager, and coach for one of the most controversial super hero teams on the face of the planet. Still from day one you knew he was going to loose his shit.

Osbourn used a great deal of medication to keep himself under control. One of the people under him, kept messing with that medication, then when they had to keep three telepaths in thunderbolt mountain before they could be transported to super jail proper you knew it was coming. But so what? No really he was just a guy on a rocket sled, his greatest accomplishment was chucking one of spiderman's girlfriends off of a bridge. Only vaugly impressed.

However, over the course of the year Ellis developed Osbourn. He made him into a man to be feared not because of his martial prowess, but because of he sheer unrelenting ablility to manipulate everyone around him to get what he wants. Even with his grip on sanity gone he still had the ability to outwit anyone he came up against. Well maybe that's not true. Okay it isn't true at all.

He doens't out wit them, he teriffys them. Scares the living crap out of them until there is nothing left. When he fought the sword's man (don't ask) he didn't win because of anything he did, he scared the living crap out of him. The thing is, that it worked. I beleived he was that scary. I saw this man sit around and do some throughly evil things from the comfortable seat of his desk chair. Now he flipped his shit and is running around with granades in the shape of pumpkins claiming he is god. After that, all the sudden your super powers mean a whole lot less, and you end up crucified. No really.

He then preceeded in indulging on a murderouse rampage on the staff. Only to then get into an actual fight, which you believe in that too. The transition from machievellian buisnessman to pysochpathic killer is handled so well, that I was left litterally in awe of how it all came together. It has truely been a masterfully written joyride that is nothing short of brilliant.

Marvel was in the toilet for a long time, and it shows in its villians. Really the green goblin is a combonation of the joker and Lex Luthor, you would think that there would be more to him than that. However, short sighted writters have left him to languish for far to long leaving him as little more than a joke until now.

Shortly after he murdered serveral people, nearly beat to death one of the thunderbolts, and crucified another he became the man who is in charge of every hero in the country.


I'm not really that excited though because Ellis has moved onto other projects, and while I like the author's involved all that complex charecterization will be once again thrown out the window.

Oh well.

I got two of the most amazing graphic novels ever out of the deal so no complaints here. Lets hope he writes something else sharpish.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

And then there was fun [braindump]

Hrm Blogger is very excited about using the enter button in the subject line. I can respect that though.

So social contract theory in gaming. This is a brain dump, which means I take no credit for how bad any of this is.

No seriously.

Okay time to come clean when Lock and that other guy with to many extraneous letters in his name came up with the social contract theory gaming hadn't yet evolved to the state that it is today. If it had then they would of had a much better way for them to talk about it. Still it gives me an interesting look into the deep psychological diffrence a social contract can make. Especially when there is an end in site.

While I typically do this about RPGs, rpgs tend to play if fast and loose with social contract so I thought I would start with something easyer on me, and that would be board games, specifically the board game Arkam Horror.

AH as it will now be known from now on isn't like traditional board games such as candy land or shoots and ladders. Players generally have free riegn over the board, and it is one of those games that straddles the divide between rpgs and board games. The idea behind the game is that pretty soon a majorly evil and ancient god will awake and eat the world unless this group of plucky, but endlessly stupid people cowboy up and stop it. In essence it is a game where up to 8 people have to work together to stop an anciet evil from showing up and fucking the wold to death. TO BE CLEAR, you absoluely have to work together or else you will loose and die hopelessly.

Essentially it is you vesus the game. There is no real human component for you to get mad at. Just a game...a game that hates to loose. To give you an idea, every turn you draw a card, usually htis card will tell you what will be going horribly awry this turn. Some of these cards are brutally difficult requiring massive sacrifices on the part of the players in order for them to suceed. On top of that these cards also open a gate, which summons two monsters, and they make a clue token show up. You need 5 clue tokens to seal a gate. If a gate shows up on a clue token the clue token goes away. If a clue token shows up where there is already a gate then no clue token for you. Mind you, you need these clue tokens to win. Along with a gate opening a monster comes out. Most monsters will drive you insane by looking at them, so you have to contend with that even before you are forced to beat them to death. Once you kill the monsters in front of the gates you have to go through the gates, spend two turns in another dimension before coming back and trust me the other dimension is no picnick...you can maybe use clue tokens to seal the gate...you need 5. Oh yeah if 12 gates open over the course of the game guess what, you loose! To many gates open at one time, you loose, to many monsters, yeah you loose, so no need to worry about the game it can fend for itself.

So here we are, picture it, 8 people crammed around a table, things have just gone south, gone south hard, and now we are frantically trying every tool at our disposal to survive. Yet depite the fact that every odd in the world is stacked against us no one mentions the idea of cheating. Not all the monsters in the game are equal, and so instead of just quietly slipping the extra nasty one blocking everyone's way, we instead we come up with spiralingly complex logisitcal plans to work around it, or to get the right combonation of skills and weaponry in the area to kill the damn thing.

On a side note the game itself requires a stupid amount of focus. We didn't pay atension to the game for 2 turns last night and we only pulled out of that situation with luck and paniced action.

That's the thing though. We are playing against a game. So we could just as easily make the game easyer by removing certain parts of it we don't like. We could take out certain cards that make it nearly impossible to win, or we could remove certain monsters, there are all sorts of things that can be done to make the game easyer, and yet...we don't.

okay by now you should get enough of the set up. There is a strage dynamic involved where there is no compulsion to follow the rules, no refferee, no one to tell us we are doing something wrong, or making something to easy, or to hard in some hilariouse cases. No instead we try to follow the rules as closely as possible because...

Well the social contract. The invisable jailer. We don't need someone to watch over us because we are overcoming a challenge together.

I could go into a Foucaltian look of power, the power the game has over us and how we don't need a ref to monitor us because we do it far more fiercly than a ref ever could. I could also go for some sort of utopian view where someday we won't need laws because we are working together to build a better unified whole.

However, I won't do either of those things or anything in between. Why? Because when we are playing a game we enter into a specific mode, which is diffrent than normal group activities. First of all we are playing a game so we are predispositioned to have fun. Secondly, if we fail/die we all fail together, at the same time more or less. So not only is your turn of great interest but so are most of the other players. Many times their actions will hinge upon your own, what you can do will be based on what they do, plans are made, along with actions coordinated.

So why not take it one step further. We are all working together, the feeling of brother hood that develops over the course of the game is pretty fantastic, why not take on the ultimate consiracy and take the game's knees out from under it. Its trying to kill you after all and what is good for one person is good for everyone right?

I've come up with the theory that it is the absence of competition. Were I smart this would go at the top of the page in a part marked thesis. I might actually do that latter who knows.

Competition adds things like desperation, desperation breeds things like mistrust, and the desire to take things into your own hands. Competition also alters the game dynamic in a certain way because it alters the pecking order. A game involving competion isn't just a game. It is a contest of persons, and at the end of it one person gets to say "I beat you". Being able to say that gives the person, in my case, an extroninarly mild amount of control over me. Through cheating, or various other underhanded methods in a competative setting, it artificially alters the playing field to make up for a precieved imblance on the part of the person being cheated.

Arkam isn't like that. It hates everyone. Everyone extra equally. Although for some reason that game seems to like to pick one player and ground them into the dirt.

It also doesn't gloat. If we win, we win together as a team, if we loose we loose together and thirst for vengence.

Similarly. I suspect that is the reason why we don't run into to many cases of direct sabotage, because we have enough problems on our hands. Someone running around and screwing things up on purpose is recipie for inviting the wrath of the entire group down upon you.

Anyway the competition thing, yeah.

I'm going to come back to this topic in a week or so focusing on that. I'm positive that is the key to how this works.

I think I am going compare it to the queerly adversarial relationship that develops between players and game masters in roleplaying games.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Come here Charlie Brown I am going to show you some good grief

Betty Page died. Yesterday technically but I was doing something. Something important! Comics actually.

Anyway so yeah Betty Page is dead. I don't really know how to describe how I feel about this. I can't really remeber my life without her actually. It took me a long time to learn her name, but the image of her always stuck with me. It was her smile mostly. I mean damn, that woman looked like she would bake you some cookies just as soon beat you.

In more than a couple of ways I adopted her as a mother figure. Yeah whatever, look I was raised by mass media alright? I don't want to hear it from any of you. I learned long ago that she wasn't actually into all the kinky stuff but that never bothered me, because I was. She worked as a defining force in my aesthtic and now she is actually dead which is kinda sad.

Man I wasn't this bothered when Vonnegut died, but I also liked him less than most other people so whatever.

Oh well.

Fare well Mrs. Page may heaven keep you, and if not well you will be remebered hear warmly on earth, well at least as long as I am alive.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Zee goggles they do nuzzing!

Yes I play WOW, no I won't be blogging about it regularly. However this does merit some special attension.

See the first expansion to wow made your charecter look fabulouse, the second expansion just sorta makes you look goth. LAME. Since I am about to move onto the second expansion I think I would like to point out that my charecter blazed new paths as far as fasion is concerned and should be loved and remebered by all.

For those of you who don't know I am playing a blood elf. Essentially we are elves that got addicted to magic and now we smoke it like crack. No seriously that is our back story. I look like such a fucking tosser, it's great.

Its going to be to bad once I goth myself out.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Just to make this easyer to finish


Alright kids so lets be honest, I hated the last two things I wrote, and one of them was a funeral for my ds. So this no longer just affects me. This affects everyone.

So we are going to try this again.

Helium is a freelance writing site where you can make money. It would be like organized versions of me doing this. At the moment I've lost my swing which PISSES Me OFF. So here we are.

On the site though it had an interesting question, under the heading "race issues" it had the age old debate, "Should we ban the southern flag?"

The real question isn't a matter of should the flag be banned or not, (not btw due to 1st amendment reasons) but as to why it is a racial problem.

Why is race part of this question at all? Okay well you all know the obviouse answer, aka the abhorrent slavery thing our country did for quite some time, and it is important to not minimise this fact. The thing is though that the plight of the black people really aren't centeral to the issue. If they were then the nature of the racist problem would of shifted dramatically as a result of the wars outcome, but it didn't. Hell it still is a major problem today for both whites and blacks.

This problem is tricky and I am not thinking clearly so lets lay all the cards out on the table:

The rebel flag is a hyperburdended symbol which holds multiple meanings to multiple groups of people, many of these people feel very passionatly about these meanings and I kinda want to unpack some of them.

First and foremost it is important to take a step back and recognize how minute of a n issue this is geographicaly. Most of the stuff in the lousiana purchase wasn't a state yet, because a great deal of it wasn't settled. Then you have all of california which holds a massive amount of our population today. All the time I've spent in new england, no one really thinks twice about the rebel flag and the fact that it is still flown, to the point, the vast majority of the people in this country don't give a god damn about that stupid flag. I mean lets face it unless you are black or true southern than what does it matter.

It really is important to establish the geographical, and historical context of this problem. It is relativly minute in of itself. It is only because it is tied to racism that this problem gets any press at all. Racism is one of those topics that one can easily write about until the end of time and not really worry about running out of things to say.

So people give knee jerk reactions, racism bad, symbol of rebellion, symbol of freedom, heritage, and any number of other catch phrases. It is a cluster of ideas that doesn't even deserve the term ideology because ideology infers that there is some sort of idea involved. In this conversation there isn't one. Rebel Flag is! See it is that "is" that hangs everyone up.

I find it odd that the rebel flag isn't a part of more art pieces. I mean we get an american flag that's been used as an ass wipe for 15 diffrent homeless vietnam vertrens and it is art. We burn an american flag and it is protest.

We burn a rebel flag and? What are we protesting? Who are we offending? All the right people as far as I am concerned. Burning an american flag is a big deal because it is very much an internalized part of who we are. Even if we don't like it, want to move to canada, whatever. Hating America is an idea that sprang up as soon as there was an america to hate. The confederate flag, it isn't us. It isn't who america is. It doesn't represent its people, hell it doesn't even represent all the people within its intended geographic region.

People say it represents racism, but there are a lot stronger, clearer represntationsd of racism. We have shown in our regretable past that we as a people have little to no trouble demonstrating our racist beliefs. If someone is racist they are going to demonstrate it far clearer than that flag ever could. The flag sparks controversy and I like that, or more that I can respect that. It is important to realize though that this is a self perpetuating discussion that is really very small in scope.

Would/could/shoulds of the situation are all irrelevent. We have to allow it, that is what the freedom of speech means. Protest it any way you see fit. Seriously, I openly encourage you. But if we are really going to get anywhere with this issue and as to what it means, it is essential to move past the fact that this is just a racist issue. Because it isn't just a racist issue. It is also a free speach issue, it is heritage issue, and there is the issue of historical remeberance. We are one country, that almost became two.

There is no real way to end this with any sort of closure. It just is. A problem on the table. What do with do with our hyper burdered schizophretic symbol? Me? I ignore it. Its how I treat most manners of speech I find stupid but no offensive enough to stand against. I mean really REALLY racism has much bigger things to take care of first.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Run Far Little Indian Run Far Far Away

A Eulogy.

Sometime in April 2006 I bought myself a Nintendo DS. Now two mighty years later I find myself laying my faithful companion to rest as its smaller flashyer replacement is now filling my pocket with its slightly reduced bulk. For most people a DS is just a game system. Something they bring with them sometimes to someplaces and sort of forget about it. Lots of people I know leave their ds's under beds, in drawers, tucked away in fogetten places never to be seen again.

Not me though. The DS is my very first hand held system and it is pretty much one of the most god damn amazing game systems to come out in a long long time.

Looking back though, developers had high hopes for the DS, hopes that were dashed by a variety of technical limitations, poor design choises, and idiocy. And yet despite all of that the DS has managed to produce some of the most increadble games I have played in a long time. Games that I have spent many hours curled up under a large pile of blankets quietly tapping away at my screen. It kept me company while I was alone, and it saw me through some of the worst times in my life. It really did. Coincidently it has also seen me through some of the best times in my life. Like the times I would spend furiously swiping away at "The World Ends With You" while Sasha would be off doing something or other. However, as the story goes, we hurt the ones we love.

And I hurt my DS big time.

My DS was more than a game system to me, it was a wallet, it was also an institution. You have to be tough if you want to run around with the crazy kids.

To be fair though this DS has lived an extrodinary life. It has been dropped onto concrete more times that I can imagine keeping track of. I'm clumsy, and I don't want to hear it from you, so yes I dropped the stupid thing a lot. It didn't compain though, in fact I think it liked it in a weird way.

One time someone thought it would be cute to hit me with a wooden cutting board while my DS was in my back pocket. My DS tanked for me. Yep it lept in front of that cutting bored and took the full force of the blow saving my tender backside. Of course my immeadiate reaction was to express my desire to kill the person who hit me, friends don't let friends get paddled unwillingly. That was a day we became closer.

Oh oh, and the time the hinge broke was pretty epic. Okay so the DS was on my trenchcoat, and my friend who was in a hurry to go grabbed my coat and flapped it sending my DS through the air. Now I don't know how high it went, but I am 6'7 and it was well over my head, then it fell down an incline with the only damage sustained being a cracked hinge which eventually came off.

Oh and another time I forgot to latch my briefcase closed so when I picked it up my DS fell out first, onto concreate of course, then several hardcover rpg books landed on top of it, and for extra awesome dropped my briefcase onto the whole pile. I am a fucking genius. The DS still worked though.

Most stupid shit has happened to that game system than just about anything else I've ever owned, and that's pretty impressive. Some of it my fault, some of it not.

But ultimatly when one day I flipped it open hoping to get in some quality time before my lunch rolled to a close I found, to my horror, that the top screen got caved in. I have no idea how it happened, but considering that both hinges were broken at this point leaving the top screen to just sort of flap around, so I knew the end was coming. I just kinda hoped it would be more epic than that. I wanted it to die via fire and violence just like it livedm and it did, I guess, but I wasn't really there for it.

Actually stupidly enough the thing still works, so I plan on making it my tetris machine. I can't sell it, and I love it way to much. So I will ignore the sad little "Please let me die" wimpers that I hear coming from it...like I ignore all wimpers and forge ahead. Besides I really hate the fact that my new DS is white, I really do.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


The first words on the lips of children everywhere fill their parents with nothing but hope, delight and prayers. It is rarely if ever the often heard "NO" but the quiet suplication that equals either "ma-ma" or "Da-da" filling the hopes and dreams of one parent while dashing the other's.

Mine was pickle


There isn't much of an update this week, a little bit has to do with LAZYNESS! More of it has to do with the fact that running our sunday night gamining sessions has fallen into my lap. I like my lap and things that fit within it so I have taken this new found responcibility and decided to nurture it.

Someone made a refference to the Dada movement the other week and it got me thinking (by some one I mean specifically Sasha) of the peculiar relationship between roleplaying games and textuality.

In many ways a role playing game has the potential to be the penultimate expression of the Dadaist ideal.

What? Oh good you are just going to take my word on that, very wise of you. Now sign over all your possessions and get in the Kool-Aid line. Well it is always worth a shot.

So let me break down what it is a roleplaying game is actually doing. The game master writes a book. He comes up with a setting, populates the setting wit interesting charecters that all have wants, needs, desires of thier own, he starts planning out villinas, which will pave the way for exciting fights, and harrowing moments, then it comes time for the main charecters.

Except during the creation of the main charecters, something happens, they some how become sentient. Not only that but they all have free will, and a hatred for their new god. They will often times, sometimes as often as possible, act in irrational ways, offend kings, run off with queens, burn down your lovingly crafted complex little villiages filled with, wants, needs, desires, and hopes. They will go to the east, east the direction where you planned nothing because everything of interest happens in the west. However, they don't care about the west because there are already things there. Its time to go east to see what new things there are to be seen.

Suddenly your lovingly crafted story is coming apart at the seams, being pulled in all directions by the sentient monsters you just created. Now as a game master, or god as it were, you have three options. bring down the ban hammer and become the despotic lord of all things you were meant to be. This usually leaves you sitting in the corrner of the game store, cackling, alone. You can let them tear the world asunder leaving nothing left but tears and ashes, but if you do they will just migrate like locusts to ELsewhere in the name of finding something new to kill and break, or three you can ride with it.

The thing about roleplaying games is that while one person may do the brunt of the grunt work it is just as much everyone elses story as it is yours. So, if you are good, you choose choice three and roll with it. When you do everrything becomes increadbly free form and more than slightly beautiful and you find yourself scrabbling the depths of creativity you never through you had in order to keep up with the other gods sitting around the table with you. Things will happen in ways you never would of originally concieved of, events spirial outwards like a blooming locust spiraling in all directions into an endless fractal pattern that is simply impossible alone.

There isn't much more random than a human beings need to rebel against someone elses established order.

So to make absolutely sure that there would be no normalcy what so ever, most pass fail situations are handled by a random number generator rather than things like dramatic nessesity.

There really isn't anything like running a roleplaying group, even the most well behaved one will take your plot for a ride and hang it out to dry before you get midway through the third game session, and when you get a really chaotic group best watch out, else half of them will end up dead because they will insist on taste testing everything, no matter how much of a bad idea it is.

Alrighty, that's it for this week, next week I'll update when I am able to, which may either be not very often or super often depending on who the writting process goes, and after that who know!

For now though, I am going to plot a future that will be ignored in favor for everything I haven't thought of, and god bless them for it.

Oh yes it occures to me that in order for it to be a truelly dadaist experience we would all take turns as being the game master. This is more than possible, I hope to show you how someday. So its only 85% dada which is still pretty intense.