“It all started when I was a wee child….”
It started with the little green plastic Army men I’d make attack Giant Barbie under the ferns in the front yard. Not long after that, my brother taught me chess. It’s been downhill from there ever since.
Wargames. Played ’em since the ’70s. Big fan of SPI back in the day. Like to wargame on tabletop with miniatures, any scale engagement, almost any era and genre, whether historical or fantasy or sf. Recently replaced my missing copy of the sea-faring classic Trireme and Galley. Score! I especially love the wargaming aspect of conflict resolved with miniatures in the larger context of a compelling story, which brings me to:
Role-playing Games. What a wonderful thing to discover in 1978! I soon discovered I loved creating worlds and running games with story-telling techniques (I have professional story-telling experience), so have almost exclusively GM’d games for the last 30 years. This dovetailed nicely with my love of geography, cultures, and history that led me naturally to my other passion, World Design, the underpining of the fictional settings my books and stories are placed in.
RPGs also inspired my forays into the world of microcomputers in 1979, because I instantly saw the beauty of random number generation, automated character generation, and the promise of computer-as-simulator. Geeking ultimately took me down other left-brained paths, but at the bottom of it all, I only ever did computers because I knew if I worked them just right, they could they could let me feel like I was flying my own spaceship. (Imagine my joy when Wing Commander came out; the first game that compelled me to buy a joystick.)
Today I’m happy to see the promise of that immersive reality is almost here. We still don’t have full-motion simulators for home gaming, but if that arrives in my lifetime, I will know I have died and gone to heaven. Of course this means I also adore
Computer games. I designed some in the early ’80s, before every geek with a ‘puter was doing the same. What wonderful evolutions this industry has gone through – but there’s still a long way to go to achieve rewarding and immersive experiences for the gamer. If I were going to pursue a corporate-yet-creative career these days, it would be in the computer gaming industry, without a doubt. But when I’m not on a computer, or can’t do rpgs, I may take solace in…
Table-top games. I still play them now and then. Unfortunately, they are so very different from rpgs, and rpgs are just so right for me, that most are only ever a simple amusement that doesn’t hold my attention for very long. Monopoly – meh. (Rather play a real-estate or investment simulation game.) Risk – double meh. It is to wargaming what Spore sadly turned out to be to real empire-building strategy/sims. That leaves me in the realm of quirky games, which I do enjoy because they’re so….different. Cheapass Games rules in this regard, with things like Bitin’ Off Heads and Unexploded Cow. And then there are slightly more sophisticated Quirky Things, like Killer Bunnies. Can’t get enough Killer Bunnies! So I am spoiled for most games, unless they are quirky, or perhaps cards like Uno, or dicing while drinking beer, and craps, totally, but that’s a whole ‘nother kind of gaming. Which brings me to….
Cards. There are only two card games that interest me: draw poker and stud poker, in their five and seven card variations. End of sentence. No wild cards, no ‘hold ’em’ variations, no blinds as if you were at a casino. It’s all foolishness, I tell you. Poker is meant to be played in a mean little saloon with the dust of the road on you, whiskey at hand, and real money on the table. Without a lot of nattering to distract from serious gambling (no matter how small the stakes). If you’re gutsy, you play it the way it started when it gelled into poker as we know it, around the 1830s: as five card draw, no openers, where the bluff was king. Work on that poker face, I say.
Ah, poker as it was played in the mid-19th century. Now that’s a game. Second only to faro, which you can’t find a playing surface for today for love or money. I’m still perturbed that that game went out of style, but that’s a rant for later.