Geek & Sundry’s fun and fantastic series about games and gamers, TableTop, is returning for a new season of episodes as soon as April 4th. This is wonderful and welcome news. Host and producer Wil Wheaton hints at some of the games and guests to feature on the show over at Wil Wheaton dot Net today, so go and get ready for future eps now. Onward.
Chris Hardwick, he who founded The Nerdist empire (or, if not empire, then duchy) and hosts the likes of the Nerdist podcast and The Talking Dead, has a book coming out called, fittingly, The Nerdist Way. Hardwick’s also an occasional contributor to Wired (a magazine I like very much) and this month that magazine sports an excerpt from Hardwick’s book. Right now, right here, this website features an excerpt of that excerpt:
Videogames make you feel like you’re actually doing something. Your brain processes the tiered game achievements as real-life achievements. Every time you get to the next level, hot jets of reward chemical coat your brain in a lathery foam, and it seems like you’re actually accomplishing stuff. But unless you get paid to play videogames, you’re kind of not accomplishing stuff.
I sometimes do get paid to play video games, when I need to learn them to write about them (if they exist in a playable state when I’m brought on the project), and I agree with Hardwick here. Sort of. A little.
The thing is, what are “real-life achievements” exactly? Is it a real-life achievement when you earn your friend some bauble or doodad in a Facebook game that makes them happy? Is it a real-life achievement when your tournament win is grounds for a celebratory fling?
Whenever I think about the boundary on the idea of “real-life achievements” now, I think of that exchange from the Pirate Bay trial:
“When did you meet [fellow defendant Gottfrid] for the first time IRL?” asked the Prosecutor.
“We do not use the expression IRL,” said Peter, “we use AFK.”
“IRL?” questioned the judge.
“In Real Life,” the Prosecutor explained to the judge.
“We do not use that expression,” Peter noted. “Everything is in real life. We use AFK—Away From Keyboard.”
“Well,” said Roswall. “It seems I am a little bit out of date.”
Everything is in real life.
So, what’s the boundary on the notion of “get paid?” Does it have to lead to money? Things that are worth money that you get for free, that’s payment, right? Can I continue this line of questioning without using the word gamification? (Shit.)
Now I’m thinking about Jane McGonigal, of course, who argues that doses of gameplay are good. Games build confidence, alertness, awareness, and more, right? They can empower. They can hone. They can do good.
Of course, Hardwick’s writing not about a bit of healthy game-playing, he’s warning against obsessive tendencies that lead us nerds to overindulge, to submerge, to become devoted to things without leveraging them for enhancing our whole lives instead of our fleeting feelings.
And even that obsession can be turned to good, Hardwick writes:
If you’ve been obsessed with a game, you have already proven to yourself that you have the ability to focus. You know how lion cubs play around and it’s all cute ‘n’ stuff? They’re not playing for the fuck of it. They’re training to eviscerate things professionally later in life. If you’re a gamer, this is what you have been doing.
What real-life achievements have you earned thanks to games?
This is a short one. I mentioned earlier that I’d played 7 Wonders and Bears! at #Origins2011 and I wanted to say a little bit about them, still.
This was my second time playing 7 Wonders — or almost. I came into the middle of a game in progress and took someone else’s seat while he went off for a meeting. I’d played 7 Wonders exactly once before, at a small convention in Minnesota, and dug it then. I enjoyed it even more this second time, when I sort of understood what was happening. (#honkahonka) I want to get this game into my home and play it a few more times, to get the hang of it. It’s handsome and it’s got depth without being needlessly complex (though I think it suffers from seeming more complex than it actually is). I want to play it a few more times before I write more about it.
I also sat down to play a couple of quick games of Bears!, the forthcoming real-time dice-matching game from Fireside Games, the creators of Castle Panic (which I still haven’t played!). This game is absolutely not in my wheelhouse. I really enjoyed it. It’s a great family game for camping trips, parties, and pick-up play at conventions, I think. It might suffer a bit from not having Cthulhu or zombies in the title, but it’s a simple, straightforward, and fun couple of games packaged together in a single box o’ dice. Good times.
The only downside to these games is that they made me wish I’d taken more time to play board games and their ilk at Origins. Alas.
You have a single prize to award to one noun — person, place, thing, or event — in recognition of excellence in gaming for the previous year, from July 2010 to July 2011. This is a prize of celebration and recognition only. No trophy, no money, no stickers, no medals.
What do you call your prize?
To what do you award your prize for the past year?
2010 is on its way out. You’ve played a lot of games this year. What sticks out? Not the titles—not just the titles—but the big wins and the bad beats. What do you recall from this year’s epic battles, risky bets, sly bargains, and other outré gaming maneuvers?
As a DM this year, I beheaded an Avenger PC in an ongoing D&D campaign that blended the Northlanders comic with The Lord of the Rings. That character was known for his deer-head mantle and it got cut away by an evil counterpart—an Avenger NPC worshipping a befouled vision of his same god. That battle ended, on an altar sinking into a volcano’s fiery mouth, with the heroic (and insane) PC dead, but the villainous Avenger met his end, too.
I also managed to make money playing Omaha High-Low for maybe the first time ever this year.
What about you?
What’s your game story for 2010?