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The End of the World As We Know It

I'm fascinated by instances where the creators of video games, RPGs, or comics change their worlds. The joy of fantasy is that everything is completely malleable. The history, the politics, the very physics of the universe - all can be changed at the creators' whim.

But what happens to the readers and players who are committed to that world? How do they deal with the upheaval?

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The Hall of Video Game Art, Exhibit 32: The Empress' Cozy Corner

Dishonored-2-Steam-Achievements-List

I adore stealth games, and the Dishonored series is right at the top of my list. Aside from satisfying my need for sneaky stabs (or stabby sneaks, take your pick), both games are a treasure trove of background art. I often hear the setting described as steampunk, but that misses the mark. This, my friends, is straight-up whalepunk.

Staged in a magic-tinged analog of late-1800s London, Dishonored exists in a world of gilt and grime. Mechanical marvels clank past packs of plague rats. Street gangs clash with oppressive clergy. The excitement of scientific discovery shines alongside the shadow of grisly occultism. Everywhere you turn, there’s beautiful paintings, filthy beggars, brass gadgets, sticky-looking pubs, and tins of jellied eels. This is a place where everything is possible and nothing will ever be okay.

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The Hall of Video Game Art, Exhibit 714: Yes, This Post Is About Breasts But It's Not What You Think

Bethany Hawke

Ah, environmental storytelling. It is, without question, one of the things I love best. I’m delighted whenever I encounter it, be it in film, in illustration, in theme parks — and yes, indeed, in video games. In this series, I’ll be taking a deep dive into some of my favorite examples within that modern medium. See, I come from a theater background, and I’m often struck by the parallels between plays and games. Both are creative composites, constructed from elements that can be appreciated on their own — writing, music, vocal performance, costumes, and so forth — but come together into something greater than the sum of their parts. And just as every play exists on borrowed time, so, too, does a game. A theatrical production eventually closes; a game eventually becomes unplayable as computers progress. C'est la vie.

That limited lifespan is what makes me want to celebrate the small details that bring virtual worlds to life. Many objects I’ll describe in the months ahead cannot be interacted with. None are addressed by dialogue, nor are they required by quests. These are things you could easily walk past or miss altogether. The brilliant background is what I’m tackling, the sublime details that transform a mere scaffold of pixels into a soulful work of art.

Which is why I’ll begin with Bethany Hawke’s tits.

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Wargames for Girls? (1964)

Vol1i3_0000Recently, I found the archives of the Avalon Hill General, easily one of the most important publications when it came to the formation of modern wargaming.

Published by Avalon Hill, and devoted to their military games, it helped to link the many, many tiny cells of wargamers around the country.

As well as rules discussion, hints, tips and challenges, the General contained regional editors (fan volunteers), an index of local players and 'want ads' for play by mail games. From a pure marketing standpoint, it was brilliant: a collection of user-generated content that turned isolated players into a community of (Avalon-Hill-Buying) regulars.

It is also a really interesting look into the demographics - and the culture - of early wargamers. There are, as you might expect, a lot of high school boys, ex- or currently serving military men, and a few middle aged men. The list of active players in the newsletters is all male (although some women may be hiding behind initials), and virtually all with Western European surnames. Basically: white guys.

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Pornokitsch's Absolute and Definitive Guide To The Best of Everything in 2016

Dark Souls 3

There are a lot of 'Best of 2016' lists coming out now, but they're all flawed and wrong because they don't include the things we wanted them to include. More importantly, they weren't written by us.

As our gift to the internet - and therefore the world - we've put together the Absolute and Definite Guide to the Best of Everything. It is conclusive and final, and should be used as a reference to settle all arguments.

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It's so much fun raking D&D over the coals...

Dungeons & Dragons

A review of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons from Ares: The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy Simulation. The core rulebooks of AD&D were published between 1977 and 1979, and this review was published July 1980. 

The timeline is important here, as Ares was founded and published by Simulations Publications, Inc. - which was also a producer of tactical and strategic boardgames... and role playing games like Dragonquest, coincidentally published later in 1980 (and obliquely mentioned in the final paragraph). Teaser ads for the core rulebooks of Dragonquest appear, coincidentally, in this very issue of Ares. The review of AD&D is certainly not unfair, but the context should also be taken into account.

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Box Brown's Tetris: The Games People Play

Tetris-for-blog_coverPublished by SelfMadeHero in October, Tetris: The Games People Play, is Box Brown's follow-up to his biography of wrestling and Hollywood legend, Andre the Giant. In his new graphic novel, Brown marries a philosophical view of humanity’s relationship to games with the true story of the rise in popularity and subsequent legal wrangling of the '80s sensation Tetris. Although artistically snappy and warm, the creator only pulls off this marriage with debatable success. Regardless, the story of Tetris is full of humour, warmth and surprise, even if it falls slightly short of the book's loftier aims.

I confess, I’m not much of a gamer; I’ve never spent hours curing patients in Theme Hospital or worked my thumbs to the bone for that perfect combo on Street Fighter, heck, I’ve never even had a phone with Snake on it. So when I heard about a graphic novel about the creation of Tetris, I wasn’t particularly excited. Tetris? That annoying game from the 80s with the stupid blocks that never go where they’re supposed to? Why would I want to read about that?

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"No Man's Sky" is This Man's Sky

No Man's Sky

There’s something about the idea of walking somewhere that no one else ever has which connects to why I fell in love with sci-fi as a kid. The idea of walking alien soil, taking in bizarre vegetation and unknown, inexplicable wildlife appealed to me far more than the epic space battles or the jetpack and robot futurescapes. That moment of arrival; that sense of what have you got for me today, universe? Exploration for its own sake is at the heart of my sci-fi.

So No Man’s Sky is at the heart of my sci-fi.

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Weirdness Rodeo: Boardgames, Funk, Amazon

Joshua Haunschild
Badlands National Park / Joshua Haunschild

Are board games getting worse? A data analysis of board game ratings shows that the market is absolutely flooded, but 'peak quality' may have passed us by:

The number of extra-special gems released each year is slightly increasing, but it’s plateauing. Truly great games represent a smaller and smaller part of the year’s releases.

Sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are mainly responsible for the surge in (questionable quality) board game releases. Without needing to convince a publisher of a game’s worth, any chump can get his name on a box by convincing a few hundred people to throw $10 their way.

Although the volume of board games (a predicted 6,000 in 2016) pales in comparison to other publishing endeavours (music, books, etc), it does make for a useful microcosm of the changes in the market. There are still diamonds in the rough, but as the rough becomes more accessible and less filtered, the ratio of diamond-to-rough falls. That's understandable - what's more worrisome is that the raw number of diamonds has been falling since 2012... 

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Nerd is the New Black: D20 Fashion

Dice-d20-Opaque2Do you think I'm sexy?We live in marvellous times.

Where once we nerds, geeks and fanfolk needed to haunt thrift stores and charity shops, comic book stores (which could be very unfriendly places for young women), bead shops and the local counter-cultural neighbourhoods of our nearest cities to find clothes and jewellery that proclaimed our love for Star Trek/TaleSpin/Squirrel Girl, we now have Etsy, Society 6, Redbubble, Amazon, Bay and ten thousand million specialist websites.

And, where we once worried about getting weird looks or teasing comments on our fashion choices, we now have Forever 21 selling Wonder Woman t-shirts. 

Basically, it's a great time to be a nerd, a geek, or a fan. 

So let's celebrate by highlighting some awesome nerdy clothes and accessories! 

We're going to kick things off with that staple of modern geekiness: the d20. 

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