Friday, August 30, 2013

Tabletop Gaming

Gaming is an interesting community because it is almost like it's own separate nation with several subcultures hidden within.

The subculture I want to look at today actually has to do with tabletop games rather than video games.  It should be a nice change of pace.

Tabletop games are something that are a venue of entertainment that goes largely unnoticed and unappreciated by the general public.  Of course, there are the common games we all recognize: Monopoly, Risk, Sorry, Candy Land, etc. and these are all fantastic games in their own right and most of them I don’t really care to play too much (too many late nights getting nowhere, always stuck in jail).

However there are a lot of really good table top games out there that are a lot of fun.  Quelf, for instance, is probably one of the more bizarre games I’ve played.  It is basically a mix between charades and trivia).  Of course there is always Apples-to-Apples and their variations, and let’s not forget card games like Phase 10 and Five Crowns.  Each are a lot of fun.  Some promote teamwork, others friendly competition, and still others it’s all really about the social aspect.

Game night has always been a fond memory for me, even if it hasn’t happened too often.  I think the true beauty of tabletop games though, is its requirement for in person interaction.  Something which our society has slowly worked its way to eliminating as much as possible.

My personal favorite tabletop game to play is Dungeons and Dragons.  There are so many stories that can be told that the replay value is almost infinite.  No game experience is the same.  Whether you want to create your own story to tell and narrate for the players, or use one that has been pre-built, there is a plethora of options and events that would make each session a unique experience.  It is an adventure like none other.

I find that many people are hesitant about D&D but I think this largely stems from a misunderstanding.  There have been so many events where people have gone overboard with the role play aspect that they forgot what it was like to live in the real world.  Unfortunately, it’s those stories that reach the media and make it look as bad as it does.  Yes, there are monsters out there that are under the “devil” category.  Yes, there is magic involved.  However, it is really no different than reading an epic novel.  Examples could include: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and even the Chronicles of Narnia.  All of which are highly acclaimed and very good books in my opinion.  It’s just a story.  It is a chance for people who want to get away from the stressful realities for a couple of hours and be awesome.

But if that’s really not your thing there are several tabletop games that could be just as fun.  If you want some suggestions, check out the Youtube series, TableTop, hosted by Will Wheaton.  They come across some very interesting and fun games.

That’s all for now my wonderful peeps.

Grace and Peace.

Friday, August 16, 2013


There is a certain strangeness that happens when I learn of sad things.

Not things that hit close to home like the death of a loved one or something else that might directly involve me, but rather the things that you might hear about on the news or in passing conversation.

For example, this week in Birmingham a UPS plane went down just outside the Birmingham Airport.  Even now we aren’t fully aware of what really happened, but the pilots died and there were a few explosions involved as well.  The story is tragic, especially for the families that have to now deal with the recent loss.

What makes the strangeness is that there is no feeling on my end.  It is a bit of a dichotomy because I do hope that the families will be okay and get through the loss without too much scarring or damage (those who encounter a death are never left untouched), but I also don’t really do anything different.  I have a brief conversation with a few sentences that typically follow an “Oh, really?  That sucks!” line of thought and then go about my day.

What makes the strangeness stranger is that when you go outside and nothing seems different it can make things seem a little distorted, or even off-kilter.  At least, that’s what happens to me.  My brain likes to trick me into feeling like if I walk out the door I’m going to see something directly connected to the event even if the event took place miles and miles away.  Crazy brain, right?

But it got me thinking.  How often does something happen that I’m completely unaware of?  I’m not talking everyday life things, but big things, important things.  What if, right now, there was someone in the Czech Republic who is crashing into a US Embassy vehicle, killing one of the Ambassadors?  What if, her in the United States, someone is slowly killing off the various judges in our court system?  Etc.

I’m not saying I think people are doing that, but it was something that crossed my mind.  How many people are dealing with horrible things in their lives right now?  Way more than I could keep up with I’d wager.  I have gotten so desensitized to most of everything these days thanks to the plethora of information I have so readily available.  It’s great, but it’s also numbing.  The crazy thing too, is I don’t know if our minds could physically handle the stress of having all that knowledge packed into it.  I think, being desensitized is a form of the body’s defense to keep it healthy.


Just a couple thoughts anyway.

Grace and Peace

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why I like the Legend of Zelda

I don’t really have a whole lot to write about most days.  This is largely due to the fact that I write off of my own experiences and what kind of things I’m working through myself (Maybe I’ll go down to one blog a week).

However, I can always talk about video games.

I’ve been running through the all of my Zelda games lately.  I just got on a kick of it I suppose.  I started with Ocarina of Time, then went to Majora’s Mask, and am now about 75% of the way through Twilight Princess (I will most likely play through Wind Waker as well).

I guess I just wanted to take a moment and express just why I like this series so much.

Obviously, the games largest appeal is because it fits into my “gamer personality”.  If you aren’t sure what yours is or if you just want to know what I’m referencing.  Check this article out; I think it captures most people really well.  I fell under the Adventurer and Casual Gaming categories.

Legend of Zelda games are, at their core, an adventure platformer.  I love being able to explore the world that is created.  I love being able to collect various gear (some reoccurring and some unique to each game), and I love experiencing the game as a whole.  Zelda games have always been exceptional at telling a story that can keep you on the edge of your seat and yet do it with such beautiful simplicity.  In fact, I would argue that at times every aspect of the game pulls the story together.  Not just the events or the dialog, but the art style used, the music, and even game mechanics.

Example: Skyward Sword, which has become one of my all-time favorites, uses an impressionist style of art.  You can see its influence when you look at some of the backgrounds which, at times, have an almost blurry, brush stroke effect.  However, every time there is conversation or a point of focus that blurriness dissipates so that the player understands where the important aspects lie. 

An example of game mechanics at work to tell the story is the learning curve the player experiences.  Still using Skyward Sword, the player gradually learns how to defeat different types of enemies and each one requires a different tactic.  So Link is learning how to fight just as much as the player as you control him.

Of course there are the cinematic that help, the dungeons you crawl through, even the bosses you fight.  They all contribute to the experience and overall story.

Of course, beyond the fantastic story that each one tells, there is the ingenuity that comes with each one as well.  Shigeru Miyamoto and his team have done everything they can to make each and every Zelda a familiar and simultaneously unique experience.  Even now, for the Wii U, his team is re-evaluating what a Zelda game looks like.  Which is why they are offering  Wind Waker HD  as a place holder.

  • Ocarina of Time was the first 3D Zelda Game
  • Majora’s Mask explored Shape Changes and the Power of a Mask
  • Wind Waker was the first Ocean Exploring game (to my knowledge), and first to deviate from the “realistic” approach.
  • Twilight Princess probably had the largest Hyrule Field and was one of the most expansive Zelda games to date.
  • Skyward Sword gave us 1:1 sword movement and over 60 hours of exploration.

Each one different, each one unique, and each one holds a special place in my heart for different reasons.  That is why I have such a hard time pointing at one and saying that it is my absolute favorite.

The Legend of Zelda series will most likely always be one of my favorites.

However, I’m not going to fool myself into thinking that the games are for everyone.  Everyone has their own play style, and their own tastes.  Some are content to just play Call of Duty Multiplayer all day, or Halo, and some would rather play sports.  I personally love a variety of games from puzzles (Zack and Wiki anyone?) to Adventure (Zelda), platformers (Mario) to FPS (Borderlands and Halo) and everything in between.  If it has a good story or has mechanics that make sense I’m usually down with at least giving it a try.

And that’s where I will leave it.  I encourage my readers to give a Zelda game a try.  If it is your first I would suggest trying Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword personally.  And give it a real go, don’t just play the first 30 minutes and give up on it.

If you’ve never tried a video game at all, I suggest trying something as simple as Mario Kart or even Wii Bowling if that’s more in your line of play.  There are a lot of games out there that are fun and actually very helpful to relax.

Remember, video games are just as much a form of Art as they are a form of “entertainment”, and not all video games are going to “rot the brain” (studies have actually shown the opposite to be true).

Grace and Peace

Friday, August 9, 2013

We still need Feminism

Here is an interesting topic for the weekend: Feminism.

For reference to what spurred the topic, check out the article I found –here.

Women have struggled for so many years now to get the equality they so justly deserve.  Unfortunately, while the movement has succeeded in many ways to further that equality there is still a long way to go before we are really on the equal ground we need to be.

Chauvinism is still very rampant in our society.  We just like to hide it under the phrase “just kidding” to help maintain a sense of political correctness.  How many times have I heard another male comment on how a woman belongs barefoot and in the kitchen?  Too many to keep track of.  And yes, sometimes the guys are legitimately just joking, but I feel that (at the risk of being too serious), these jokes should never be funny to anyone. 

To put it simply, chauvinistic jokes are not funny and you should find another genre to joke about if that’s all the material you have.

Women are so much more than just sex dolls that walk.  They have emotions, they can be absolutely brilliant (see our “First Women” in any category you think is a “man’s job”), they are capable and strong, and whether you want to admit it or not, they can kick every single man’s butt if they wanted to.  Women are just as powerful in their own way as men are.

Because that is the beauty of humanity.  We are all so different that we need each and every person to help make the world a better place to live in.  Not just for ourselves, but for those that follow as well.

I do want to point out that when I speak of feminism I am speaking from the definitive understanding as indicated within a dictionary.

The doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.

This is not to be confused with what many might term the “Femi-Nazi”.  These women, while still upholding the core of the feminist movement, tend to act like they would rather men not exist at all.  I’ve known some to get upset at common courtesy (i.e. opening the door for them) and rant that all men are pigs and idiots.  Granted, based on their experiences with men I can understand why they may feel that way.

Still, the fact remains that if feminism’s success was so powerful that it swung the pendulum in the opposite direction we would be in the same boat we are now with the roles reversed.  Which, in my opinion, would be just as detrimental to our communities as the current standing is.  We do not need a patriarchal society, and we do not need a matriarchal society.

We need an equal society. An Omniarchal Society?

That is something I can get behind.

Because I think it is silly to differentiate in title between men and women in their jobs. Reese Witherspoon and Bruce Willis are both Actors; and whether a male or a female is seating me at a restaurant both are my Host.  Why do we need to separate gender like that in our language as well as our society?  Why not just say “she is my waiter?”  Or if you would rather go the other direction “He is my waitress”. 

The reason I say this is to point out that our language is just as important when it comes to reflecting the society we are and the society we want to be.  If we use gender neutral terms, we encourage a better understanding of equality (“Y’all” *shudder* vs. “You guys” for instance).

I also support an Omniarchal society because women are just as strong as men.  In some ways they can be even fiercer then men when it comes to protecting and fighting for what is right (see feminist movement, their ability to pick up the slack during WW1 and WW2, any mother when her child is in danger of anything).

But at the heart of it all, I want equality for women because I want equality for everyone.  Everyone has the right and deserves to be treated with respect.  It shouldn’t matter whether or not you are male or female.  If you can do something I cannot then I give you props.  Men are not superior, but neither are women.  We are all basically the same.

Let’s try to avoid damaging each other out of ignorance or just straight boorishness in the future, okay?

And you lady readers out there, while I’m directing most of my comments to men, the above statement is just as applicable to you.  Just because a man hurt you in the past does not mean all men are like that.  There are several (and I have very good male friends who fit in this category) who are proud to stand with women in their fight for equality and will do everything they can to treat women right.  So ease up on the man hating, okay?

Time to check out.

Grace and Peace