student 20 Productions

Random Thoughts of a Game Developer

Gaming and Gaming – We had it first, damnit!

I love video games. I’m not good at them or anything, but I’ve played them since I was a kid. M family’s first video game console was (if I plumb the depths of my memory from the late 70s/early 80s) a Super Pong console, although I couldn’t tell you on a bet the manufacturer. I dimly remember having a light gun… but I can’t come up with much else, even when pressed.

Atari 2600 mit Joystick

Atari 2600 Home Entertainment Console; Image via Wikipedia

We later had an Atari 2600, and that’s the console I remember best from early childhood. My whole family played; my Mom was fond of Super Breakout and Video Pinball. I don’t remember my Dad playing much, although that’s probably because of his work schedule. My favorite game early on was Adventure, but that was eventually supplanted by Dragonstomper and Escape from the Mind Master, a lovely game made possible by the Starpath Supercharger. The Supercharger was a gigantic cartridge  that connected to a audio cassette player to load the game. Apparently, the thing also expanded the memory and graphic capability of the  2600, which isn’t difficult to believe for anyone who played any of the long-loading but still awesome games.

Dragonstomper, in particular, appealed to me due to its similarity to the D&D games I was already enjoying. You played an adventurer who was on a quest to slay a dragon overlord. You collected items and gold, fought monsters (generally unimpressive ones, to be sure… I mean, being attacked by bugs, monkeys, and beetles wasn’t exactly tension-building), dodged traps, and eventually fought a massive pink dragon. Why was the dragon pink? I’m going to blame the 2600’s limited color palette, but I’m not sure that’s much of an excuse.

Dragonstomper and, to a lesser degree, Escape from the Mind Master were precursors. I have no way of knowing if the future creators of Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy ever played these games, but it doesn’t matter. The JRPG genre of game was soon all I wanted to play. I enjoyed platformers (especially Mega Man) and other games, too, but my fondest video game memories of my childhood make me think of dragon lords named Baramos, elemental fiends, and espers. I’ve always been especially attached to the Dragon Quest games, and out of them Dragon Quest 3 and Dragon Quest 4 shine the brightest. These games did a much better job than their American counterparts (Ultima not withstanding, although I disliked it for other reasons) of telling a story. Even today, the things I look for in my video games are story and the ability to improve my character(s) as I go along. I want good gameplay, too (which means the abysmal Final Fantasy 13, or as I like to call it Press A a lot and run down a corridor is straight out), but story is the main thing.

Switching gears, I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons (in the original Red Box) when I was 8, and fell instantly in love. I’ve been a role-player ever since, and, as this site attests, have made ham-fisted attempts at making my own games. I’ve been doing that since I was, I think, 11.  I’ve played a laundry list of tabletop RPGs, and I’ve read and leared how to play several that I’ve never had the opportunity to try out.  I read rulebooks as casual reading, and I frequently keep one in the bathroom.  I try to keep up with the state of the industry (although I freely admit that I’m not very “with it” when it comes to indie games).   I love dice. I enjoy minis, although due to unsteady hands and a lack of patients for all things artistic within me, I tend to prefer the pre-painted ones. I dream of run

Dungeons & Dragons

Image by unloveablesteve via Flickr

ning a booth at Gen-con.

In short, when I started both hobbies, neither one was exactly what you’d call mainstream.  I do remember, however, that we tabletop role players called ourselves “gamers” long before the term referred to video gamers. We tabletop RPGers dealt with the idiotic cries of “concerned parents” and – moreso than video gamers have ever had to – persecution and outright slander/libel perpetrated by the religious right. Want proof? Here:

http://www.chick.com/articles/dnd.asp

http://omgrpg.blogfaction.com/article/101003/top-5-misconceptions-about-dungeons-dragons/

http://www.adequacy.org/stories/2001.8.1.165438.1158.html

The first article is about as accurate as anything else put out by Chick.com – which is to say not at all. There are not and have never been  specific ritual instructions in any Dungeons & Dragons manual. Saying that the creators went and consulted with an “Alexandrian tradition” witch who was also a Satanist is insulting to witches, satanists, D&D players, and the memory of Gary Gygax. It’s also phenomenally ignorant.

The second article talks about misconceptions concerning D&D players that apply to tabletop gamers and (to some extent) video gamers.

The third is a sad story, and I feel for the woman who wrote it. Suicide is a horrible thing, and I understand this mother’s need to understand what motivated her son to take his own life. That said, D&D is not a cult. It is not a religion, so that eliminates it from the definition provided in the article for cult, but even if it didn’t, D&D is still not a cult. It is not “extremist”, and it never makes any claims on being truth (in fact, it really only claims to be a shared imaginary experience, which is what it is). And – here’s the part I find most difficult to type – it did not kill this poor mother’s son.

At any rate, we tabletoppers have been the subject of the same idiocy. The primary difference is that Video Games have become much more mainstream than role playing games ever have been or ever will be, and so congress has gotten involved. Also, current and past Politicos in the U.S. Presidential administration seem to be of the belief that if they keep harping on video games, we U.S. citizens won’t notice what a craptastic job they’re doing.

I suppose that, if there is, in fact, a point to all this rambling it’s this: as a tabletop gamer and a video gamer, I can tell you that our hobbies aren’t that different. Both are associated with being anti-social despite being intensely social. Both are maligned by ignorant religious and political leaders. Both have had their day in court. Both are fun, both help forge friendship, and both have a interesting history that’s about the same length and has much in common.

We (meaning video and tabletop gamers) have a similar hobby. In fact, I can’t think of a single tabletoper who doesn’t enjoy video games. I can’t help but think that our mutual communities should be sharing things with each other, not the least of which is the name “Gamer”. So stop assuming that, when I say I’m a Gamer, I mean video games. I usually don’t, even though I play both. Let’s all come together and show the world that our hobby isn’t about being lonely, dysfunctional eff-tards.

We’re all Gamers together – but we tabletop gamers had the name first, dammit.

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