Connections Online – Practical Game Design presentation on Youtube

Just a quick one… here is the link to the event on Youtube.

Zones of Connection: 21-22 May 2021

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Nick Mizer, who I first met in connection with the national conference of the Popular Culture Association several years ago (Bored of War…  and News Paper Games) recently sent me an “Invitation to Collaborate” to the Bradley Tabletop Games Symposium, an online event to be held 21-22 May, 2021.

The Symposium is itself a collaboration between the Interactive Media Department of Bradley University and the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences Program of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where Nick is currently teaching. First, this event is quite welcome because it focuses on tabletop games; people have heard me often enough moaning about how the academic field of Game Studies is wilfully ignorant of its analog past and all it still has to teach. Second, this event is unusual because it is designed to be a collaborative event, a collection of events and sessions between the interdisciplinarian individuals involved in the field without the formal structure of keynote speakers, presentation of prepared papers, or scheduled fun-time events (that is, you’ll have to provide your own wine and charcuterie).

In wargames, a zone of control refers to the area of restricted movement and activity that occurs when two units become adjacent. As a theme for the first of these tabletop symposia “Zones of Connection” expresses our belief that bringing together a diversity of emerging voices and perspectives on tabletop games has much to offer through the connections that can be forged, interpersonally, emotionally, and intellectually.

Have a look at the invitation to collaborate document here Bradley Tabletop Games Symposium – Invitation to Collaborators and note that rather than submitting abstracts, they are asking for ideas for sessions (to be formatted as workshops, roundtables, panels and seminars but with as much audience participation as possible). If you have an idea for something you would like to participate in, let them know at the link in the document. Deadline for submissions is 26 April 2021.

To give you a further idea of what they might want to see, here are some topics of interest:

  • Games as media
  • Games and simulation
  • Games and anti-colonialism
  • Games as resistance
  • Games in/as education
  • Industry studies
  • Cultures of play
  • Board game cafes
  • Hybrid games
  • Ludo-textual analysis
  • Virtual tabletop play
  • Storytelling in tabletop games
  • Legacy and campaign games
  • Games and speculative futures / alternate histories
  • Discourse analysis of play sessions
  • Streaming and actual play podcasts
  • Phenomenology of play
  • Ludic fandom
  • History of tabletop games
  • Gaming and the military industrial complex
  • Games and translation
  • Games and play therapy
  • Board game renaissance
  • Games in the age of the pandemic

There must be something in all this to interest you!

Personally, I was interested in the speculative futures/ alternate histories topic and am considering submitting a suggestion for a session on that, related to this:

One thing that tweaked me while working on the games-as-journalism piece for the Eurowargames anthology was the section on games on hypothetical wars produced in the 80s, mainly on a Third World War. Regardless of whether you thought that was a farfetched event at the time, it did occupy a lot of interest – at the time. But over the last 10 years or so there has been a resurgence of new games coming out that study that same subject – a Soviet invasion of Europe in the mid-1980s (examples include the World at War series (2007 – 2015), Corps Command: Dawn’s Early Light (2010), Red Tide West (2014), Brezhnev’s War (2018), 1985: Under an Iron Sky (2018), Less than 60 Miles (2019), Red Tide South (2019), and The Fulda Gap: the Battle for the Center (2020)).

Nostalgia for an actual past that one remembers imperfectly is one thing. But nostalgic game design to commemorate a then-hypothetical future that is now a fictional past, it seems to me is a strange inversion of historiography indeed, and an additional twist beyond the approach taken by the designers of Twilight Struggle (where the disproved “domino theory” is consciously used in the game as the logic and incentive for players to act, within their roles as world leaders during the Cold War). So it’s a recreation of a hypothetical future from our past, but what kind of “retrofuturism” is it?

  • Dissatisfaction with the complex and quite changed power structures of today, and nostalgia for the bipolar world with its predicted wargasmic collision of the ideologies?
  • A notion that this war (potentially personally involving players then and now) would have been that generation’s “Good War” (per Studs Terkel), a moral exercise of Us vs. Them with clear-cut roles, unlike the troubling conflicts of Korea, Vietnam and half a dozen other interventions? (I do note that practically all of the examples I’ve given have been by American designers.)
  • Simple-minded huffing of nostalgia fumes for the games that these designers played in their youth? (Sure, I played my SPI NATO, Fifth Corps and BAOR like everyone else, but I miss other games from Back In The Day).
  • Rivet-counters looking for neato technical match-ups, and missing the contextual point as they often seem to do?

I can’t decide what it is; like always, it’s probably a little bit of everything, varying with the individual. It’s just something I’ve noticed and find perplexing, and while it’s pretty narrow I wonder if there are similar veins in other types of tabletop games.

Eurowargames anthology

One project I undertook during the winter was to prepare a piece for an upcoming anthology on Eurowargames – basically an expansion on my “games as citizen journalism” wheeze. This project is edited by Riccardo Masini, Fred Serval and Jan Heinemann, three very good names; they put out a call for articles last fall.

https://eurowargames.wordpress.com/

The original focus has somewhat widened, and the range of submissions will reflect that I think. Latest is that the anthology will be published in fall or winter of 2021, after getting sufficient funding through Kickstarter.

They did ask me my opinion about crowdfunding this, and I had no objection to using it as a pre-order system, but please, NO STRETCH GOALS!

Just get the book funded, and only the book. No tooled leather slipcases, commemorative tea cosies, or sets of commissioned miniatures of the authors (that last one is tempting though. I wonder what I would look like as a small action figure).

Anyway, the above interview (made before the final deadline for article submissions, so they did not yet know for certain what-all they had) gives more details.

Connections Online 2021: Whiskey Charlie podcast

Tomorrow!

I’ll join Maurice Fitzpatrick on his podcast, with Brant Guillory and others to talk about the Connections franchise of annual conferences on professional wargaming – its past, present (online for now) and future.

The Connections Online conference is next week, registration is open, and the schedule and events thereto are filling up.

Hey, don’t forget I will be talking about the practicalities of game physical design with Mike Markowitz on Monday, April 12 at 1500 EDT!

Connections Online

Connections North (the Canadian variant) is in the past, the US conference is 22-25 June (special theme: Ethics in Wargaming) and the Connections-UK conference has been moved forward two weeks from its usual time (14-16 September). All will be online events, For The Duration Of Viral Hostilities. Meanwhile, keep up with developments on the Facebook group:

https://www.facebook.com/ConnectionsWargaming

Sgt.Hartman

Tune in, maggots!

Shining Path in the classroom

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Last month Aaron Danis, a professor at the Institute for World Politics (an independent graduate school that trains students for careers in national security and international affairs) used the Vassal version of Shining Path as a classroom activity in his course “Counterterrorism and the Democracies”.

He very kindly wrote up the exercise at the following link: https://www.iwp.edu/students-alumni/2021/04/01/iwp-students-play-in-peru-counterterrorism-wargame/

There was only enough time to get through the first three turns, but he would like to return to it later and spend a half or full day on it. The students were enthused and added knowledge from their own readings or documentaries they had seen on Sendero Luminoso. He tried to get his students to play it out on Vassal by themselves, but the interface and technology was a bit of a struggle so he adopted a simple solution of setting up the game for himself, then sharing the game screen on Zoom with the students so they could discuss and direct the moves of the pieces.

I’m glad this worked out well!