Intrinsic Value

My word, is it 2015 again already? These universe cycles go so quickly these days. Next thing you know, it will be the Big Squish all over again.

2014 was a good year for me. That’s how I plan on thinking about it, at any rate. While some aspects of my personal and professional life were less than ideal, I believe that I produced and helped to actualize some works of great intrinsic value. Here are a few recent highlights:

I began the new year with a reinvigoration of my Session Report series on Entropy. Session Report: Mage Knight Board Game and the Sandbox represents the next evolution of the series–not an evolutionary leap, but a subtle innovation, like a new pattern of stripes or spots. The newest concept is that, in addition to providing a narrative retelling of a single play session and an overview of the game’s mechanics, I will launch into a monthly theoretical discussion of a different aspect of game design. In this article, I talked about sandbox games and how to tell a good sand castle platform from a stinky catbox.

Near the end of the year, I replaced my singular Session Report with a marathon of smaller reviews, called the 12 Days of Gaming. Although these reviews are (slightly) more succinct than my norm, I couldn’t resist gushing over a few favorites, such as The Lord of the Rings, Flash Point: Fire Rescue and Hey, That’s My Fish! Also worth checking out part one of an ongoing solo roleplaying game (or creative writing exercise, by a different standard), generated using the excellent Storyteller Cards.

I haven’t been alone at Entropy, though. Late last year, I invited Chris Holly into the fold, and he’s been generating some fantastic content. In January, we launched his new series, Playing Detective, wherein Chris discusses his love of the detective genre and analyzes the successful and failed attempts to combine it with the realm of the interactive. The debut post covers the one-of-a-kind Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, while the next leg, coming this week, discusses the Tex Murphy series of computer adventure games.

A Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures is another essay from game designer and publisher Phil Eklund on Entropy. I am increasingly convinced that Eklund is board gaming’s greatest thinker–he might not be the savant of game design (I can’t personally comment, not having played his games yet), but he’s a great font of intellectual discussion. In this essay, inspired by his upcoming title, Neanderthal, Eklund discusses the impact of vocabulary on human cognitive development.

Outside of Entropy, I launched a new series on NerdSpan called The World on My Table. The World on My Table is a monthly concept that explores a more casual side of my gaming obsession. Rather than involved final-word reviews and essays, it represents my shifting thoughts on whatever I happened to play that month, alongside quick nuggets of tabletop gaming news. In January 2015, I discussed my two most-played games of the month, the indie game Shadows of Malice and the ultra-flavorful deckbuilder Legendary Encounters: Alien.

Finally, I continue to contribute board game reviews for Indie Cardboard. Most recently, I reviewed David Chott’s colorful and creative tile-laying game, Lagoon: Land of Druids.

Well, that’s all for now. Until next time, kiddos!

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A Very Busy Season

Elves aren’t the only small, humanoid creatures that are all a-bustle this holiday season. Yours truly (more hobbit than elf, to be honest) has also been a busy bee-ver (a strange concept for a hybrid animal, but I don’t really give a dam). Let’s pick out some of this month’s highlights:

My retrospective review of Tomorrow Corporation’s Little Inferno went live on HTMLGIANT this morning. If you haven’t had a chance to play the game, it’s currently on sale in a variety of digital marketplaces, including the pay-as-you-wish Humble Bundle, so your excuse for not trying one of indie gaming’s most blistering satires is undeniably insufficient.

In case you missed it, this is my second HTMLGIANT review of the month. The first was of Daniel S. Muehlmeier’s art object/board game CENTERPIECE, the subject of a failed and widely mocked Kickstarter project. I’m not sure why the campaign failed, to be honest; I was hooked from the moment I first clicked on the video (it has certain mesmeric qualities). Though the Kickstarter failed, you can still order copies of Daniel’s game on ebay.

You might remember that last month, my wife Heather started her own blog, JUMPSCARES, chronicling our late-night delves into Netflix’s horror library. Well, she was kind enough to let me write a guest post in review of Satan’s Little Helper, a cheeky indie horror comedy she refused to touch. She’s also got a review up, as of a few days ago, of Pontypool, a surprise hit suggested to us by Netflix Max. You should really check it out (the film and the review).

Finally, I haven’t given up on my Sexy WIPs…just slowed down the pace a bit. If you’ve been following this blog, you will already have seen the first two installments of Fatal Purr, my overproduced animatronic horror stage musical, written during my and Heather’s honeymoon. There’s also a little Xmas surprise coming at the end of the month. And I’ve added some licensing information to the About page, since I am now officially publishing my own creative content on the blog…basically, feel free to share, reblog, retweet, or remix anything you find here, as long as you link back to The Year is Yesterday and you don’t make money off of it (to obtain permission for commercial use, feel free to contact me personally).

So as you can see, I’ve been working hard this…oh crap, it’s only 2 days until Christmas?! OMGBRB

Postscript: My newest roundup of Kickstarter projects for NerdSpan just went live as well. Check it out!


Giants Prehistoric and Postmodern, Killer Gramophones, and cetera

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How do you know you’ve hit the big leagues? I don’t know, maybe when there are fucking giants involved? At least that’s how I feel when, all breathless and with a gut full of lepidopterans, I find one of my articles published on the awesomely cool HTMLGIANT. It’s a bit of a review, a bit of a criticism, and a bit of a confession, all centered around the question: how far can we possibly push storytelling in video games? Is there a point where we become limited, not by the technology or the medium, but by the personalities of the players themselves? Do those players (myself included) actually want the kinds of stories they keep clamoring for? Find out–well, one person’s heartfelt take, at least–in Mass Effect and the Self-Imposed Strictures of Interactive Storytelling.

My wife of 10 years, Heather Campbell, has begun tapping into her own writerly spirit with jumpscares, a WordPress blog dedicated to the horrific gems buried in the Netflix instant streaming catalog. I couldn’t think of a better calling for somebody who spends as much time on Netflix as we do (she’s as mad about movies as I am goofy for games), and she plans to update it with weekly reviews and other features. To date, jumpscares has covered three streaming delights: the off-the-wall Twin Peaks pilot episode, the surreal psychological horror of YELLOWBRICKROAD, and the quirky cult slasher flick with a too-strong moral compass, Sleepaway Camp 2. She’s also finally hopped aboard the Twitter train (follow her @lurking_horrors).

I continue to preside over the Geek Haven, a.k.a. Kickstarter’s projects in the game-o-sphere, with a monthly, curated view of what I see as the best of the best. This month, that included the insanely overfunded Night in the Woods, for which I didn’t see the appeal until I clicked on the video myself. It also includes Dino Run 2, a dream project that, if it doesn’t hit its funding goal, will make me cry dinosaurian tears; Touch Board, a very cool tech project with real-world gaming applications; and more of my usual mix of electronic and tabletop games. Check out November’s Geek Haven: Dark Woods, Paleolithic Paths and Gaming Paint.

and some microfiction for you:

My old professor tended a garden of nocturnal daylilies. He was a peculiar sort: every evening, he retired into his night-garden, recited Shakespeare by the blue light of the mosquito lamp.

His garden was something of a legend among students. He offered guided tours, without appointment, on weekends, but by morning the blooms were already beginning to close. Only four students had witnessed the flowers in their full splendor, inhaled their moony fragrance, but they were strangely reticent about the how they had come upon the professor’s garden at night. A heavy price was whispered.

I became the fifth.


Healthy Living Slasher Dream Squashtacular!

Lots of goodness to report this week. First, I report on the latest Kickstarter happenings in the Geek Haven Halloween Squashtacular, courtesy of NerdSpan.com. Pretty Princesses, autoscaling guns and a new Rebuild, oh my!

If there’s one demographic that knows how to get into the spirit of Halloween, it’s gamers. Every year during the month of October, there’s at least one spooky little gaming treat to get us all into the mood. In 2010 it was Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare; in 2011, we got Infamous: Festival of Blood; 2012 gave us Hotline Miami (hey, at least it has masks); and 2013′s big Halloween release is…Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag? Well, I suppose there’s a skull and crossbones. At least in the Geek Haven, there are plenty of witches, alien abduction, zombies and games of dress-up to look forward to…as well as some games that, if they aren’t quite in the spirit of the season, are no less deserving of your attention because of it.

Next up, we bring you breaking news from the Reality(tm) front. The Reality Institute, curated by Reality(tm) connoisseur Michael Molitch-Hou, has uncovered a slimming new slice of the real with The Healthy Imperative. What happens when a BodyConscious mother gets fed up with all the outdated mores of American society, with its laws and CPS agents? Find out in this extended rant/blog post discovered exclusively by yours truly, Byron Alexander Campbell.

It was supposed to be the year of healthy living.

I know that as soon as I post this update, I’m going to get roughly 7 million responses from my BodyWatch Inner Circle (luv ya!) saying, “LaJoindRa, you make that same resolution EVERY NEW YEARS EVE!!!!”! Lol, I know! ;) [j/k, I luv u guys] But you know what, this year was going to be really special. ❤ Lol, it’s so depressing and disappointing I don’t even want to talk about it. :”’( But I know some of you guys (u kno who u are!!) love a good BackSliding story. Can’t disappoint my loyal fans. ;p

Now if you’re reading this, you’re in my Inner Circle [can’t let the plebs see me in a moment of weakness loljk], so you know I’ve always been a BodyConscious person. It started when I was 12 years old and my Daddy took me to get my first vag-plasty. I wasn’t naive enough that I didn’t know what it was for (thanks, Mom xxxooo), but I guess I never thought about needing to get it done myself, even though I’d sat in for Mom’s rejuves once or twice by that age. But then again, she’d had me! [lol ;p] Any vag would need a little refreshment after that. You only need to look at my ankle molding pics to guess that, even as a girl, that girl [me ;) ] got legs!!!!!!!

In case you missed it, all 5 acts of my high school-era horror screenplay, Dark Ascension, are up as of earlier this morning. Read the entire thing in one sitting…if you’re brave enough. Few men (or women) can handle THIS MUCH overt symbolism.

And finally, I leave you with this wonderful piece of microfiction from Heather Campbell, titled “Slasher Dream”:

I had a dream that the killer was inside the house, so we had to live in the garage.


You’re Not My Mom

You’re not the boss of me. I can review a game I’ve already reviewed if I wanna.

See?

http://www.nerdspan.com/boss-monster-card-game-review/

So naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah


Vacation Advice

Make a stir fry, take it on a picnic…to MARS, throw it at a dragon, board a riverboat, watch the boat sink, go a little crazy, eat your vegetables.

http://www.nerdspan.com/geek-haven-balanced-diets-sinking-ships-and-new-frontiers/


An Extraterrestrial Orgy in L.A.

Last Bookstore FINAL 2They come in peace. Anybody who knows diddly-squat about aliens knows this, as sure as haloperidol prevents demonic possession. What most people don’t know is that aliens, well, they’ll come in just about anything. When E.T. wanted so badly to call “home,” he was really using the galactic equivalent of a phone sex hotline. “To Serve Man” is no more a cookbook than the Kama Sutra. Let me put it to you simply: our extraterrestrial visitors are up for it, all the time. They put it round, you know. This is not just another conspiracy theory filed away in some dusty FBI folder; this is bone hard medical fact. And they can do things involving reversible anuses that you wouldn’t believe.

This is the supposition at the heart of Strange Attractors: Investigations in Non-Humanoid Extraterrestrial Sexualities, the pan-media book published jointly by Encyclopedia Destructica and (appropriately) The Institute of Extraterrestrial Sexuality. The contents of the book range from prose to video, humor to post-queer theory, with the goal of pushing “beyond male and female, beyond queer, beyond any notion of gender, beyond the anthropomorphic to erotic possibilities as vastly varied as the Milky Way itself.”

Why am I telling you all this? Only by way of invitation, my dearlings. On Saturday, May 18 (a mere three days from now), there will be a confluence of Strange Attractors content in the form of a reading/screening by some of the West Coast contributors to the project, myself included. The event will take place at The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles, and will run from 7pm to 9pm (and beyond). Be there, or be limited to mere 3-dimensional geometry. This will be my first time meeting many of the contributors to the book, so I’m not sure what to expect, exactly, but I’m sure it will be a first contact to remember.

After the cut: A new alien comes on Earth! Also, what the hell have I been up to lately?

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