Why should YOU play D&D? Reason #1

Maybe you’ve only heard of Dungeons & Dragons in passing. Maybe a friend or two are badgering you to give it a try. Maybe you’ve only experienced the stigma of a game that is supposedly only for the nerdiest of nerds. Maybe you tried it in your youth years ago but have lost touch.

Whatever your standpoint today, if you are a gamer in any capacity (video or board game), enjoy storytelling or creativity, or you just like hanging out with geeky people, you should give D&D a try. If you need convincing, or want convincing, here’s the first reasons to try, and usually the main factor in why people choose not to:

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Saint George – Different Perspectives

Teacher – This is an image of the Patron Saint of England, soldiers, farmers and much more. St George isn’t English; he was most likely born in what was Cappodocia (modern day Turkey). He is almost certainly a martyr, dying for his faith rather than making a sacrifice to pagan gods. The dragon was added to his story much later.

Video Gamer – The horse has clearly glitched over the dragon. Horses in video games are always difficult to steer properly. I hope that’s not the final armour or costume St George gets, and that weapon upgrades are available. Not that impressive a monster either. Is this meant to be a boss battle? Pfft. Unique animation style though.

Dungeon Master – that’s not a proper dragon, more like a Wyrmling. They’re only a Creature Rating 2, not that big a deal. And green dragons breath poison, not fire. I’m guessing St George is a paladin? Not sure what class the woman in the background is, but the fact that she has the wyrmling restrained means St George has advantage on his attacks. Not a tough fight.

When do you Fast Travel?

The ability to skip sections of a video game has been around for a long time. Think about this mechanical feature for a moment. The creators of a game have poured their sweat and tears (I hope there’s very little blood involved) and spent a considerable amount of time writing and coding, only to give the player an exit. Take cut-scenes for example. Lots of love went into a visual spectacle that drives story and inspires excitement for the gameplay to come. And then the creators add a “press _ to skip” feature.

In one respect, fast travel feels a lot like this. An entire gaming world has been forged for your entertainment, but with built-in a feature that lets you teleport. “We made this to entertain you.” The developers say, “But we put in a button that lets you skip it in case you don’t find it entertaining”. If it can be passed by, why is it in the game?

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Stealth is a Gentlemen’s Game

The bullets fill the air as you tumble down the corridor. You curse your own lapse in judgement. You timed your approach perfectly, took the guard down from behind with one swift and surgical strike, but you failed to spot that second guard. After so much careful espionage, after so much sneaking, one blunder has led to chaos.

For one brief moment, the guards lose sight of you. You change direction abruptly, diving for cover behind a set of unmarked crates. Your pursuers are right on you; it won’t be long before they find out where you went. Crouching low, you scramble to check your ammunition and patch your wounds.

The guards are still searching furiously, moving closer to your position. You take a breath and prepare to defend yourself with maximum efficiency. The nearest guard, mumbling to himself, looms over the crate, tentatively moving to a position where he can see your hiding place. You begin to raise your weapon…

…and then he turns and walks off.

“Well, he got away. Back to my guard post.” He practically doffs his hat in recognition of your skills of evasion, checking his pocket watch to check that, yes, it has been exactly sixty seconds since the chase began. Should you slip up again, he will commence the chase anew, but until then, good day to you, sir or madam.

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The Geek is a Dad: Baby VS Video Games

“Can you remember what life was like before?” That’s the curious question I have heard so many times since becoming a dad four months ago. The notion that life would become so unrecognisable because of a baby is not without its merits. I’ve certainly never in my life had this many conversations about sleep patterns or bowel movements. I do however find some fault in the query. Life has changed and is changing, but I don’t believe it will change so much that I cannot enjoy the things I did before, or that I can’t be the same gamer-teacher-geek I’ve always been.

Admittedly, it’s early days. I think part of the reason I’m writing this is so that I can look back at the ‘father of four months’ version of me further down the line. He’s probably going to seem so naïve (and less grey haired). For now, I am that hopeful sole that sees his fatherhood as a life equally nerdy as what came before. How, when and why I enjoy my geekiness – my video games, Dungeons & Dragons, history and teaching – will change, but the last few weeks have taught me that the Geek is a Dad, and the Dad is always going to be a Geek.

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How do you become a ‘Grown-Up’ Gamer?

Hello internet, it’s been a while. Ten months since my last blog in fact. There have been many reasons for the long pause: my marriage last August; the extensive renovations on our new home; the workload that comes with being a teacher, and other very grown-up things. For a few months I wasn’t even really playing video games, never mind blogging about them.

I have, of course, started gaming again. I’ve hardly made up for lost time, and the amount I can play has adjusted. The last few months have led me to the startling conclusion that I am, in fact…

a ‘grown-up’.

The way I game has changed gradually over time, but it’s only this year that I have truly embraced the fact that the way I play needs to be altered. Maybe you’ve been through a similar experience? Perhaps you have yet to feel a change. I’ve found a few ways to adapt gaming to suit my adult life.

  1. Become more selective.

When I was younger, if two decent games were the same price as the game I really wanted to play, I would go for the two games. It would pass the time until the newer game dropped in price, and the older games often turned out to be better than expected. Besides, I’d get through all the games I wanted to play eventually.

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What do you want from a Boss Fight?

I’m terrible at sticking to one game at a time. Whilst I should be dedicated to The Witcher (especially since I’m blogging about it once a month), I’m also playing Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask on the 3DS and Lost Odyssey on the Xbox 360. I hop between each game depending on my mood, preference and proximity to gaming platform. I mention this poor gaming discipline in order to make a point about boss battles.

These three games offer up boss fights in very different ways. Majora’s Mask, as with the rest of the franchise, delivers the most comprehensive boss fight package. The lair’s superior is given their own room, theme music, new game mechanics and a fancy, introductory banner with their name on it. Lost Odyssey is slightly more conservative. The boss is provided with introductory and concluding cutscenes and a new set of attacks. Most basic of all are The Witcher bosses, which are usually bigger, more vicious versions of previous foes. There is, however, more effort made to entwine each boss into the narrative of the game.

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Gaming Fantasy Dinner Party – Guest Numbers Three & Four

This week is a twofer. The next two guests I would invite have a lot of similar traits, and it seems sensible to introduce them side by side. Firstly, they are both scientists, though their fields of expertise do differ. Secondly, these men are true intellectuals – men of ideas, creativity and invention. Thirdly, they are very gentlemanly in their own ways. As such, they contrast the rough and ready natures of my first two guests.

So far, Alyx Vance and Jim Raynor have been invited to my make-believe evening of food, drink and entertainment. Whilst these two characters are a little rough around the edges, I believe they would make excellent house guests. Having said that, a little refinement wouldn’t hurt; guests #3 and #4 will add a touch of civility to the evening, without butchering the light-hearted atmosphere I’m aiming for. They’re both odd, awkward fellows in their own ways, but they are sure to make for good company.

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Gaming Fantasy Dinner Party – Guest Number Two

 A dinner party doesn’t have to be a formal affair. There’s no reason why every guest should arrive in formal wear, or point the pinky finger when they sip drinks, or speak in a clipped ‘Queen’s English’ around the dinner table. You want your guests to behave, but they don’t have to be so prim and proper.

Let’s be honest, if I was hosting an entirely formal dinner party, most videogame characters wouldn’t get an invite. As loveable and iconic as so many virtual characters tend to be, most of them are ‘rough around the edges’. Minecraft Steve eats food by violently ramming it into the centre of his face. I adore Raziel from Soul Reaver but his diet consists mainly of human souls; his eating habits would put the other guests off their food. Most characters lack the ability to actually sit down, which would make an evening meal quite uncomfortable.

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Should open world games rethink how they tell stories?

We’ve all observed stories that use the ‘x days later’ device. A linear narrative can avoid weeks, months and years of bunkum by jumping to the next interesting bit. It’s a trick which allows the storyteller to stick to the good bits, providing it is used effectively. It’s a trick we can all accept and appreciate.

Now imagine you were reading a book or watching a film where the inverse happened. Instead of moving time forward ‘x weeks’ into the future, the story instead took a detour which lasted for days or weeks, only to return to the main story as if no time had passed. In most cases, we would find that very odd and a little jarring (unless it’s a dream-sequence or a peculiar plot twist). Yet open world games let this happen all the time.

Videogames can be rigidly linear in gameplay and story, or completely non-linear in either area. In many games story can be absent entirely, but sometimes I feel that the combination of linear story-telling and non-linear gameplay feels unwieldy. We as gamers are meant to follow a pattern of close-knit events whilst simultaneously spending hours on exploration and random side missions.

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