Þa se wyrm onwoc, wroht wæs geniwad
— “When the dragon awoke, trouble flared again” (Beowulf, trans. Seamus Heaney, line 2287)
If you grew up on fantasy stories, dragons (in this post’s case, European dragons, the nasty, fire-belching, gold-hoarding, knight-slaying kind) were probably some of the first monsters you were introduced to as a child. They’re probably some of the first monsters you fell in love with as well (I still want to grow up to be Maleficent). It’s hard to imagine a time when dragons were a novel concept; thousands of years of elaboration and adaptation upon the draconic have produced dragons that are variously awe-inspiring, cute & cuddly, and totally metal, but rarely are they frightening or repulsive anymore (the Gaping Dragon from Dark Souls was probably the last dragon that made me recoil in horror). If we’re willing to get a little creative, though, dragons could be scary again. Let’s consider the fundamental features of these beasts, and what those features say about their role as antagonists.
Continue reading Restoring the Sky Tyrant: Dragons as Contemporary Villains
Beyond Good and Evil: Videogames as Mental Health Management Tools
Guest Article by Elizabeth C.
~CONTENT WARNING: This article includes frank discussion of depression and related mental illnesses.~
“Would it be alright if I read you something?”
I am sitting in my therapist’s office just before the holidays. He’s only asked me this question a few times before in the two-plus years that I’ve been seeing him, and I know what’s coming.
“Sure,” I respond cautiously. “Go for it.”
Continue reading Elizabeth C. on Games as Therapy
Art, Porn, and Who It’s Made For:
Guest Writer Elizabeth C. demonstrates how the videogame Ladykiller in a Bind criticizes a pornography industry that fails at consent culture.
~CONTENT WARNING: This article includes topics of porn, misogyny and descriptions of sexual intercourse.~
I was taught my morals in America, and I came away with a few main points. Don’t kill anyone. Don’t steal stuff. Don’t lie. Look both ways when you cross the road. And, finally and most importantly, sex is bad and you should feel bad for thinking about it. America is traditionally highly Puritanical, and as a result there are strong taboos that exist around the subjects of sex and sexuality. Abstinence-only sex education is an excellent of example of this. “Just… don’t.” That’s really the beginning and end of it. At one point in high school my friend’s class was asked to write and perform skits about what one could do instead of having sex, such as genealogy and baking. It was pretty dire.
Continue reading Guest Article Special: Elizabeth C. on Ladykiller In A Bind
Kamen Rider Calliope Update 2!
Big news! Kamen Rider Calliope has an official publishing date. Drop by the site around 9:00 am on January 14th to read the first part of Myth 1!
Something I’ve struggled with in explaining Kamen Rider to the uninitiated is how “it’s a show that’s merchandized to little kids, but the storyline and character development are written for an older audience”. I feel like that idea can’t expect a warm reception from people who are used to Western (or maybe just American/Canadian?) TV shows. In the culture I grew up in, if a show is made to sell toys to four-year-olds, you can safely assume the plotlines you’ll see are generally mind-numbing to anyone outside of preschool. YES, DORA, IT’S THE BLOODY MAP, WE GET IT, HURRY UP AND GET EXPLORING.
Continue reading A Tale of Two Demographics
So, here’s a confession that probably compromises a significant part of my identity:
I don’t like reading.
More specifically, I don’t like reading books.
When I was a young kid I blossomed as one of those “early readers”. As a child under the burden of extreme social anxiety and multiple phobias, reducing my world to the space between two pages was a great relief of stimuli. And then, around high junior high-school or so, I just… stopped reading. There were a bunch of factors; I had just gotten access to cable TV for the first time in my life, as well as a computer connected to the internet. It was also right around the time when adolescents were realizing that reading was only “cool” because the adults were incessantly telling them so… Which, by ironic contrast, made it definitely “not cool”. I fell into that line of thought and never really rebounded even after my ego was no longer endangered by the cruel machinations of socialization though public schooling.
Continue reading A Confession and a Resolution
I’ve been playing Hopoo Games’s Deadbolt lately and thorougly enjoying it. I just barely beat Capter 2 Level 1, and 2:2, to me, looks almost impossibly difficult (ended up beating it while writing this. –ð). Attempting this level is certainly going to result in me being gunmurdered by vampires many, many times (it did. –ð), and yet, I’m excited for it. Why do we like hard games? What is driving me to persist through failure after failure? I think it has something to do with the way games structure their challenges, and the ways in which human beings pursue self-development.
Continue reading Two Styles of Hard Games, How We Play Them, and Why We Like Them
This week on “Cartoons Today are So Much Better Than in the 90’s”; Nickelodeon’s family-comedy serial The Loud House manages to get the obligatory “modern technology” storyline right! It seems like ever since smartphones ushered in the social media lifestyle, cartoons never managed to get through an episode dedicated to the topic without muttering about dang kids and getting off lawns.
Continue reading Today’s Cartoons are Best Cartoons: Getting the Tech Episode Right
Roleplaying games. For some of us at BLP, they’re our bread and butter (I’m one of those lucky jerks who gets to play them as part of my day job). For some of us, they’re a recent discovery. Psychodrama, the performative act of becoming someone else in mind, and sometimes in body, is an ancient one that galvanized culture and led to most forms of art and entertainment in the present day. Roleplaying games connect us to aspects of other people and ourselves, and helps open our eyes to new perspectives. This week’s Going Around poses this prompt to our team of contributors: Tell us about an RPG character (tabletop or otherwise) who has stuck with you after the game is done.
Continue reading Going Around: Fragments of Our Finest Selves
So, last week, I introduced the problem I was having with making engaging combat encounters with my teenage player group with a DnD homebrew system I’m running. And I promised an answer for my game design woes. Well, here it is:
I don’t really enjoy combat encounters myself. (Was that dramatic reveal worth the wait? Don’t answer that).
And from what I’ve seen, my players don’t either. But games like DnD are literally designed around combat encounters (or at least the first four editions were, I don’t have much experience with 5e); your character gains power and levels through EXP and loot obtained after beating up baddies. It’s more than something you’re encouraged to do via game mechanics; it’s the game’s M.O. It’s how you play the game.
Continue reading Are We Having Fun Yet? (Part 2)
A generational gap that divides opinions on what makes a game worth playing
My first roleplaying game experience takes me back to when I was 12 years old. I stepped out of a December snowsquall into Phoenix Games, a hole-in-the-wall game store squeezed into a strip mall five minutes down the road from my house. After purchasing the 3.5 DnD Player’s Handbook there, I joined a game group made up of kids who would become my closest friends for the next six to fifteen years. The game was run by the owner of the store, a late gen-X geek in his mid-twenties who got paid either nothing to way too little to put up with all of our teenage bullshit for the next few years. It was a seminal time for me, is the picture I’m trying to paint here.
Continue reading Are We Having Fun Yet? (Part 1)