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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Season’s Bleatings

 

It’s true that I haven’t posted on this website of late. I’ve been too busy transforming my life into a nightmarish montage of self-imposed deadlines and unquenchable exhaustion. But now! Now I have something for you, darling readers.

Halloween is my favorite time of year, and I have been exceptionally busy (even for me) making sure I had some ghoulish content going. Just look at these puppies:

 

On Entropy

Session Report: Mansions of Madness

Silent Hill 3: Biography of a Place

Five Monster Movies That Aren’t Really About the Monsters

 

On Indie Cardboard

Review: The Demise of Dr. Frankenstein

Preview: I Hate Zombies.

 

But that’s not the extent of my recent activity. Check out these other recent posts on Entropy and Indie Cardboard:

Review: Star Realms

Tabletop’s Most Wanted: SPIEL 2014 and Beyond SPIEL

Letter To You (a guest post by Todd Michael Rogers, creator of the world’s first tabletop novel)

D&D: Entropy Style (an ongoing D&D campaign with my fellow Entropy editors)

 

Last but not least, I’m getting back into fiction writing this month as I tackle…

NaNoWriMo!

 

Follow my novel’s (pathetic) progress here: my NaNoWriMo page

 

Have a spoooooooky November!


On Games and Gaminess

I haven’t done an actual career-related update for a while, and with several recent and upcoming articles on Entropy that I’m immoderately proud of, I figured, oh, what the hell. For writing!

Entropy is “A new website featuring literary and related non-literary content.” It’s been going strong for, oh, three weeks now, and I couldn’t be happier with the community that I’m now a part of (as a contributing editor for the site). I’ve made the acquaintance of some awesome writers who share many of my interests, and even though I don’t get to read the e-magazine as often or as thoroughly as I’d like, I can tell from what I do read that I’m in the middle of a network of great writers and thinkers.

But enough of the mushy stuff. Here’s what I’ve been doing for Entropy so far:

My first post, on March 21, was an interview with John Clowdus of Small Box Games. A small, independent card game publisher who has stayed small and independent, I really admire John’s work both as a publisher and a designer. His games tend to be small and quick but full of tense decision-making, not to mention gorgeous to look at.

On April 5, for International Tabletop Day, I wrote about  the Allure of Allegory; or, a Case for Cardboard, in which I argue passionately for a medium that I didn’t even know existed, in any serious, modern form, 2 years ago: board games.

On April 7, Janice Lee posted a piece titled Interface Culture: On Narrative & Video Games, which features a few citations from one of my previously published articles on the Black Clock blog. It’s a great, reader-friendly tying-together of modern thinking around the medium of electronic games.

And today, on April 9, I published When Play Isn’t Fun Anymore: On Games and Discomfort. It was originally three separate essays until I realized that they were all talking about the same thing: games that manage to work in spite, or because, of failing at being “fun.”

I also edited Mike Molitch-Hou’s Why-To Like Poetry and last Sunday’s list of Top 3 Unfinished Books. In the next few days, I’ll be posting Part 1 of a discussion I participated in, talking around the subject of video games and aesthetics, and there’s much more on the way, including more interviews, reviews and…wait for it…session reports!


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.


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


In Which I Review A Very Peculiar Card Game

Rant Gaming has just published my review of Joe Fourhman’s unofficial, unauthorized card game tribute to Tecmo’s Fatal Frame series, and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out. You have to check this one out. Read the review here.