So, the word came out that CCP/Onyx Path/By Night Studios, publishers of World of Darkness, once known simply as White Wolf Publishing (it is complicated, I explain it in #6) was having their annual convention/Grand Masquerade. Now, White Wolf was once located in Stone Mountain, Georgia, which apart from being about the best town name ever is also far away from my home base in Orange County, CA. So although they have done cons before, I have generally heard about them being in places like New Orleans (understandable, given their flagship game is about vampires). However, this year it was right in my backyard, on the massive hotel/boat/museum/place to see Princess Diana stuff for an extra charge known as the Queen Mary. So, perhaps needless to say, we suited up and headed on out. And by suited, I meant I wore a top hat and I had a cane. Which looked cool, but would have been more fun if I were ambidextrous. We returned from our marine adventure with ten things we learned from the long weekend of immersing ourselves in the LA by Night: Grey Ghost Masquerade/World of Darkness annual convention:
First Things First: Booklets and Badges, complete with a Toredor vampire clan stamp
Opening this Friday, the animated feature Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 presents a vast array of anthropomorphic and sentient creatures made up of food, from pizzas with crust limbs, musical burgers and cute little strawberries to predatory "Tacodiles." At the other end of the wholesomeness scale, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are gearing up to produce their long-cherished project Sausage Party, an R-rated, animated adventure about a sausage that's fallen from his shopping cart and is trying to get back to his aisle.
But of course, there's nothing new in this.
Humans have been endowing our food with personality since at least the Gingerbread Man - revived as Gingy in the Shrek movies - through innumerable advertising favorites ranging from Big Fig - the dancing Fig Newton - to Mayor McCheese, Will Vinton's California Raisins, the gullible M&Ms, the evangelical stars of the Veggie Tales and the Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Here are twenty more of the many, many other examples of conscious cuisine...
1. The Flying Spaghetti Monster
The FSM was created by - or, perhaps, revealed himself to humanity through - one Bobby Henderson, in a 2005 open letter to the Kansas State Board of Education arguing against teaching "Intelligent Design" in public school science classes, on the grounds that there's as much scientific evidence that this high-carbohydrate deity created the universe as any other Supreme Being. Soon after, however, the Sacred Starchy One spawned books, a website, and other manifestations, and, in a sort of apotheosis et absurdum, was adopted by ironic hipsters as their true faith.
It's all good-natured fun for now. Hopefully a few centuries hence there won't be a bloody jihad between the Orthodox FSMers and the sect of the Al Dente Angel Hair Incarnation.
Not to be confused with the similar and equally nerdishly titled The Zero Theorem from Terry Gilliam, Nerdist Industries' first foray into feature-film distribution now has an official poster and trailer.
The movie about rival Dungeon Masters in a role-playing game group has gotten some great buzz on the festival circuit; our own SXSW reporter Fred Topel said of the filmmakers that "they not only know their RPGs, but have a cinematic way to show everyone else how cool they are." I like what I'm seeing so far of the casting - that lead actor looks like the most convincing frustrated fat nerd I've seen since Kevin Smith Tweeted about getting kicked off a plane.
The new trailer doesn't quite convey the central struggle between old-school nerd and hipster nerd (an idea long overdue in movies, and I'm not surprised Chris Hardwick jumped on it) the way prior versions have, but it does seem to me to get the trappings of the scene down correctly.
I'm no expert, though, so I'll leave it to the hardcore aficionados to judge. After the jump...More >>
20 Years of World of Darkness! 20!
It's easy to forget these days, when pin-up models regularly sport N.E.S. tattoos and cosplaying is more synonymous with cheesecake than living in basements, but there was a time when being a geek was a social stigma. This stigma was especially strong with table top gamers, who were known for obsessively collecting dice, confusing real life with epic campaigns, and putting everything on graph paper. Or, as my Senior Advisor said in my High School Yearbook , "Dave you are a cool guy, you should ditch that D&D stuff and get some chicks".
However, back in the 90s, Nine Inch Nails, Anne Rice's vampire chronicles, and D&D all had a bastard child named Vampire: the Masquerade, and suddenly everything changed. Goth clubs started hosting live action roleplays (LARPs to us gamer nerds). People played RPGs at coffeehouses while smoking clove cigarettes. For the first and only time the local RPG convention became overrun with goth girls wearing vampire fangs and/or fox tails. It was a strange, confusing time to be an RPG geek for sure.
This new generation of RPGs was intended to concentrate on stories and moral decisions rather than smiting enemies and gathering treasure. The books were splendid at invoking their gothic-punk atmosphere with art, writing, and bits of song lyrics. However, their mechanics could be a bit slippery and the books became infamous for meta plots involving sometimes ridiculous characters, weird cosmic events, and vampires wearing trench coats carrying katanas and/or paired desert eagles.
Concept and mechanics slippage led to multiple reboots of White Wolf's core lines over the years (particularly Mage, their book about modern occult practitioners) and eventually led to a book that ended the game universe followed by a new, more subtle line called the New World of Darkness. The New World of Darkness (now published by Onyx Path) tried hard to curb the excesses of the old editions, maybe a little too hard as many believed a bit of the joy was gone from the old game. That, coupled with the decay of table top popularity in general led to a successful game line that had far less cultural impact than the old one.
That was 2004 - 2012. But, this year, we are seeing a new version of the New World of Darkness. And this is why you should care:
1. We Aren't Tired of Vampires Yet
There's a new Dracula television series on the way, all full of darkness and hot girls and a bit of metro-sexuality and science wherein Dracula pretends to be Tesla, or something. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is in it, and he also was in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, which came out this year... and has more vampires! Also, as you know, that pensive pale girl and the sparkly guy over in Twilight land.
100% Sparkle Free!
Vampires seem bigger than ever, which is funny since it has been true most of my life. This starts to give me the impression that vampires will grow ever more famous as I live on until all the TV shows have vampires. Which I heartily endorse by the way as vampires basically make everything better.
World of Darkness games let you play these characters, and not in the sense of 'a vampire can fly 6 inches above the ground and drink your blood in ten minutes', I mean, that is part of the game, but more important is all of the angsty bits. Angsty bits are fun because if vampires don't have angst they're basically zombies, and we're all sick of zombies. To be a World of Darkness vampire, you still have to drink blood, but if you aren't really nice about it or lose your vampire temper (which is a constant danger) you end up degenerating to a serial killer, and then a dribbling idiot fast. You have your powers but you hate them, too. It's sort of like me and my terrifyingly powerful charisma.
At a press conference held this morning in advance of the Tokyo Game Show, Sony introduced their upcoming PS Vita TV system. From Destructoid:
Andrew House took the stage at a pre-TGS press conference this morning in Japan to show off this new pocket-sized system. This 6cm x 10cm device will allow your TV to access Hulu and other like services, watch PS Store videos/movies, tweet, email, and much more.
And as the name suggests, the PS Vita TV will let you play Vita games on your television, as well as downloadable PSP and PSOne games. There's even multiplayer support for Vita games. Just keep in mind that Vita games that need touchscreen action won't work with this system.
Amazingly, it's also a companion device for the PS4. Via remote play it will allow you to play PS4 games from another room, for example.
In Japan it will be released for 9,480 yen (about $95) this November 15. A bundle with an 8GB memory card and Dual Shock 3 controller will also be released, priced at about $150.
A bunch of new models of the PS Vita were announced as well. Personally, I have never warmed up to the Vita, but then again I am probably just pissy because Sony doesn't release a new Parappa the Rapper sequel every year. So your mileage may vary. But I want to know what your thoughts are on these sort of tiny TV-based systems. PS Vita owners, sound off about or whether or not I should give it a chance. On the flip side, are their any Ouya fans out there? That little device seems to be PS Vita TV's greatest opponent right now in terms of getting gamers' dollars. (Not that the grassroots DIY aesthetic of the Ouya can even remotely compete with the giant that is Sony).
While we are on the subject of upstarts, who is psyched about GameStick, Apple TV's Airplay and GamePop? Let me know what you think about all this in the comments, because the complexities of trying to decide on the perfect TV gaming experience these days just makes me want to dig out my Commodore 64 and play Space Taxi until I fuse with my sofa and get featured on one of TLC's cautionary tale medical shows. (Thanks to SlyDante for the tip).
Heroes are only as good their villains and, to whit, fighting games are only ever as memorable as their final bosses. It ain't enough to just have some 'final challenger' at the top of a championship ladder; you need a boss who twists the player's stomach around in bitter, seething frustration! Either he has maddeningly cheap attacks, or he cheats at his own damn game, or he's got a scummy backstory that frames the gameplay as a true good/evil struggle, or there's just something about him that's begging for red-knuckled comeuppance. The more you hate a boss, the more cathartic your eventual (right?) victory against him will be, no?
Let's face facts, though: bosses just aren't as threatening in our post-arcade gaming era. The danger of getting pantsed by one of these rat bastards just doesn't breath down your neck as hotly when you aren't worrying about how many quarters are left in your pocket. Also, nobody makes psycho killers quite like the Japanese do, so if you notice that these bosses all debuted in a very specific time and place in gaming, well... that ain't an accident.
It all started at Gary Gygax's house in August of 1967. I'm not talking about the creation of Dungeons & Dragons, though that would happen soon enough. I'm talking about the first Gen Con back before it had a name, when it was merely a small gathering of fans inspired by a one-day gaming convention in Malvern, Pennsylvania that Gary read about in a magazine. Inspired by the Malvern event, Gygax invited 12 to 20 (the numbers are shrouded in the haze of his remembrances) to come to his house for a day of gaming. The majority of the people who attended knew Gary through that '60s equivalent of online gaming known as "postal play." According to Robin Laws' excellent resource 40 Years of Gen Con, Gygax described the event as, "crowded. We had three card tables crammed onto a small front porch. Then there was some miniatures gaming down in the basement. It was a weekend. My former wife would definitely have killed me if [it] went more than a weekend."
The next year was the first official Gen Con, which was held at Horticultural Hall. There were approximately 60 people in attendance at that event, including a high school student named Mike Carr who had convinced his family to spend their vacation sightseeing in the area. Carr attended that first Gen Con and shared his original board game Fight in the Skies. The game was eventually published by TSR as Dawn Patrol and it has been played at every Gen Con since 1968.
From those very humble beginnings Gen Con has become the premiere table top gaming event and one of the largest pop culture events in North America. Last year Gen Con had over 41,000 attendees. There is a lot of fun to be had at Gen Con, but it can be a bit overwhelming so I'm here to give you a few tips that will help you maximize your fun and minimize your stress.
Image Source Spirit of the Blank
Follow my advice and you'll avoid being trapped in the Invasion of the Game Snatchers pictured above.
Gaming cons are quite possibly my favorite times of the year, a brief but glorious long weekend wherein the only worries are making it to games in time, staying awake through games, and eating so you can go play more games. It's like being a kid again, but you get to stay up really late. Although there is a dealer room, it is not particularly commercialized, and the local cons tend to be attended by the same major gaming clubs every time, so there's a good sense of community.
All of that happy-fuzzy stuff aside, after running and playing games at cons for over a decade I've started to notice a few archetypes you see every time. Some can be celebrated, some can be a little terrifying, and they could all do with a little bit of mockery. So, without further ado, here are ten people you will see at a gaming con, split into Game Masters (them what run the game) and players (those what play).
The Game Masters:
1. The Unprepared GM
The Unprepared GM has had as much time as anyone else to put a scenario together but fell prey to the dread beast procrastination. A prepared GM will have STUFF - character descriptions, a snappy intro, maybe a map or three - whereas the Unprepared GM has little more than a special badge and a glassy eyed stare. They will become more difficult to spot by about day 3 of con, as the Unprepared GM will become hard to distinguish from Exhausted, Hungover or Malnourished GM. Is the GM's blank stare because they have no idea how to answer your question, or because a hangover is squeezing their brain like a massive spider? (For the purpose of this example, the spider both squeezes things and is invisible).
Maybe if I look thoughtful, they won't notice I forgot my books.
Dead giveaways are a lack of character sheets, those little mcguffins that tell you what the virtual you is capable of and how good he or she is at it. A GM who tries to write up characters at con or guide others through the process at the table either vastly overestimates the skill of most people to instantly pick up a game, knows exactly who will be playing or just had no alternative. Another giveaway - when the GM switches games on you at the last minute. At the last con I attended, a GM decided to switch from werewolves characters to ordinary humans in a zombie-pocalypse since the 'adventure was too hard' with the number of players who showed up. I don't buy it, but on the plus side I got to make a Sea Captain. I like Sea Captains! (Arrrrr is for role-playing.)
Ad agency Ted Perez and Associates wanted to challenge themselves to complete a project in 30 days that would test their skills. They came up with a full-on arcade game in which you must use a light gun to shoot bloodthirsty bears without hitting the underage, pervy summer-camp boys being menaced by the critters. Presumably this is based upon Stephen Colbert's imaginary childhood.
Also, the title makes fun of a C.S. Lewis classic religious allegory for children, for some reason.
Seems like a good use of time to me. Check out the video after the jump to see how they did it.More >>
Technically, Nerdist is part of Legendary, which has little problem finding distribution channels for gargantuan properties like 300 and Pacific Rim. At Comic Con, however, Nerdist announced a new distribution partnership with Tribeca Films to release Zero Charisma, the decidedly non-gargantuan yet festival-popular comedy about role-playing gamers, and the conflict between two dungeon masters. One is the more stereotypical overweight/mom's basement nerd, while the other is a neo-hipster nerd who goes on about his hot girlfriend (i.e. exactly the kind of nerd Chris Hardwick gets accused of being).
It's not clear if Nerdist has plans to distribute more movies in the future; I'd suspect it depends on how well this one does. But in an era where arthouse divisions at the big studios are going by the wayside, it's interesting and cool to see Legendary indirectly create a potential new one...and one specifically targeting a certain demographic at that. Ours.
Nerdist-channel exclusive clips of the movie after the jump...More >>